Whetstone storage case

Over the weekend I was asked to pinch hit in a pretty busy kitchen. The problem was that none of the knives were tolerably sharp.

I like my knives to be sharp – real sharp. I agree with those who say “a sharp knife is safer than a dull one”.

There are three stages to a sharp knife – keeping it sharp, getting the edge back, and full out recovery from damage.

  1. A whetstone at 250 or 400 grit can bring a knife back from the dead.
    At 1000 grit gets is back in service.
  2. A ceramic rod will get the edge back.
  3. A “steel” will keep it sharp.

This box holds a two-sided 7″ stone with 400 and 1000 grit. It’s not a high end stone and it chips easily.

The box is made from a pile of tiny scraps of bamboo. The top mates to the bottom with wooden pins.

The finish is a sealer coat of oil based urethane then scuffed with 000 steel wool and buffed with paste wax. The inside is coated with urethane but no wax. The urethane protects the wood if the stone is damp when stored. Eliminating the wax avoids the risk of any getting on the stone.

Ants have Moxie

Give these little guys some credit, they don’t know what it means for the odds to be stacked against them. They also understand you can get a lot done when you ask your friends do a little help.

Baling wheat chaff

I’ve seen bales in other fields here on the Eastern Shore but this is the first year they’ve collected the chaff on my field. It’s a fascinating process for anyone who likes mechanical machines.

It starts with the combine harvesting the wheat. Rather than uniformly blowing the chaff out across the field, it dumps the majority of it in a trail behind the combine. This concentrates the material.

Next comes a tractor running the baler. Unlike hay, the wheat chaff is a combination of wheat stalks and bits of chaff. The baler sucks and scoops in the trail left by the combine. It compresses it layer by layer. The machine makes a very distinctive mechanical chunking sound. The bale gradually exits the baler. When it is the final size, that bale stops and the next bail starts. The finished bale eventually drops out the back.

After bales have been created and dropped around the field, another tractor runs around with a collector. The collect runs behind and off to the side of the tow tractor. This is important since the driver needs each bale oriented side-to when being collected. The tractor operator creatively catches a lengthwise bale with one of the collector arms to make the bale rotate into the correct position. Bales are collected in twos. Each pair of bales is then flipped up onto a carnage. When the carriage has six pairs, the entire stack is stood up in a row of bales.


Wheat harvest – double time

The weather has been anything but cooperative, especially for the farmers. Many fields have had the winter wheat waiting for harvest. No sooner is it dry enough, then we get a heavy rain. The fear has been mold.

I’m sure it wasn’t ideal but they brought in two combines and four tractor trailers and brought in the crop “in my front yard” today.

It was slow going since heavy wind and rain had knocked some of the wheat over. To harvest this wheat, the combines need to run slower and cut closer to the ground. This not only takes more time but more fuel as well. It all cuts into the profits.

I don’t know how this crop compares to previous seasons but the wheat is out. Bring on the soy beans!

The Spoon-Staw adds style and function to your summer cocktails

Growing up, my grandmother had these special metal straws with a heart shaped scoop on the end and a small ball at the top. I later learned these were silver mint julep straws. It’s a bit ironic since my grandfather never allowed alcohol in their house. We used them for root beer floats.

I miss those straws and a search on eBay tells me I need to resign myself to that fact. HOWEVER …

… where there’s a will, there’s a way!

It turns out there are some affordable stainless steel facsimiles. Most have a boring round spoon end and a straight pipe straw. I did find a relatively attractive version with the same gentle “S” bend of those my grandmother had. These affordable versions also had a nice teardrop spoon. They did not have the ball at the end for your lips and the pipe at the spoon end was just a square cut.

I could do little about the ball but a little carful grinding and polishing and the spoon end of the pipe now has a graceful bevel.

Bring on the mint juleps … or sangria with fruit! … Root beer floats are available too at the Bucking Bar!

Cabinet shelf-drawers

Anything short of a completely custom kitchen will inevitably be a compromise. Most of today’s “custom kitchens” are little more than a selection of options. Truly custom scratch built kitchens are just too expensive for all but the most demanding clients.

I rarely get called for a complete custom kitchen (but if you are in the market, I’m happy to discuss you wants and needs). Still, I do get calls for making customizations and improvements to existing kitchens.

In this example, the client had a small kitchen in which extra deep cabinets had been install around the refrigerator. I like the look of a flush-mount refrigerator and dislike those counter-depth refrigerators. The solution is extra deep cabinets. The problem is getting to the back of those deep cabinets. 

The solution is custom built extra deep pullout shelf-drawers.

The project consisted of 6 shelf-drawers for the tall and narrow side cabinets plus shelf-drawers for above the refrigerator.

Using 27″ under-mount heavy duty soft-close slides gave the client 28″ deep shelf-drawers which resulted in 30% more accessible storage and the shelf-drawers handle up to 150lbs each. To accommodate the potential loads, the shelf-drawers have 1/2″ bottoms.

There were a few wrinkles to the install. Since the cabinets where standard sized with full overlay doors, there was dead space on either side of the drawers where the face frame extended into the storage space. This called for different spacers to be made for the left and right sides of the tall side cabinets. The upper cabinet had different sized openings and a dead space in the middle so three specific spacers were needed there was well.

Installation was accomplished using a custom jig which snapped into the existing front and rear shelf pin holes along with a front spacer to establish the correct set-back for the front of each drawer. By mixing which holes were used in the jig vs the holes in the cabinet, I could adjust in quarter inch increments.

The installation took a good amount of preparation and planning but only a couple hours at the client site.