Smokehouse, Part 1–The Cold Smoke Machine

The Things You Find in the Scrap Pile

The game is afoot, as Sherlock liked to say to Watson. I am finally finishing off my brick oven, AND building a smokehouse to go along with it. There’s some history to go along with this plan.

Back in the day, every farmer in our area had a smokehouse. MJ’s grandfather’s was a beauty. He built a fire right in the middle of it, but only smoked meat during “hog killing weather,” which began in November when it formerly became very cold.. In short, cold smoking was the only smoking he did, which meant that the temps inside the smokehouse never topped ninety degrees.

I’m going for one that will cold smoke and hot smoke. I will be able to build a fire in the smoke house, and one outside of the smoke house, thanks to the steel wood stove that was buried under my scrap pile. Moving it also helped clean out my workroom.

Be that as it may, the foundation is also completed now, and I am ready to frame this thing. Check back in another week or two, as we are about to have some very good weather for working outdoors.

Gypsy Alert in Tuscaloosa

My one encounter with authentic gypsies (Romani) was in a convenience store in Tuscaloosa, back when Melanie Jane and I were both students at UA. Whenever I finished teaching a writing class, and was walking back to our apartment on Reid Street, I would stop by this hole in the wall store named Charles and Company, and would stop and buy us a treat–a bag of M&Ms. The checkout guy got so used to me buying the same thing everyday that he would have it rung up on the register before I even got there.

This particular day was challenging. By the time I got to the M&Ms department, the tiny store was full of women–Gypsy women. I guessed there were about twenty of them, and the leader of the group was a strikingly attractive young Romani woman, who was all up in the cashier’s face, waving dollar bills in the air and yelling “Marlboro! Marlboro! Marlboro!” That was enough to distract any young man. By the time the guy was finally able to find the sufficient packs of Marlboros to satisfy her, the other ladies had walked off with a decent percentage of the inventory. When I got to the checkout, I thought the dude was going to cry.

As per usual for a Graduate student, I had just enough cash to pay for the M&Ms. I was still wondering how to relay this info to MJ, when I got to our third floor apartment. Our radio was tuned to a local station that was appropriately crappy for a college town, and as soon as I walked in the door, the DJ said, and I am not making this up, “Emergency warning–a Gypsy alert has been issued for the City of Tuscaloosa. Repeat–a Gypsy alert has been issued for Tuscaloosa. Be on the look out for packs of Gypsies.”

Packs? Wolves, maybe? All I could do was laugh, and share my pack of M&Ms. I barely resisted calling the cops, and telling them that all I had seen were packs of Marlboros.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Ten and 31/64–Gage Self-Setting Planes

The GOAT of Production Planes?

I have been off of WordPress for a month, as I have been setting up a new MacMini, a task somewhere in between cleaning the Augean Stables and finding the last digit of Pi. I am back with all new passwords, and projects delayed for too long. For example, look at that slab of Eastern Red Cedar the Gage plane sits upon. 6′ 7″ long, 14″ wide, and 2″ thick. It has new workbench written all over it.

Now back to that Gage G35 plane. It took over thirty years to corral all the parts. The last part was the combo cap iron and chip breaker, bought from the top tool seller in the country (he had several of them). I think my total investment in this plane was $29. A mint version of the same plane sold for $1700 plus.

Why so much Jack for a production plane? It is essentially an absolute masterpiece of late nineteenth century industrial design. Let me list a a few of the innovations.

The Parts

To start, the plane blade/frog Combo is rock solid. The iron slides into the frog via a slot in the built in frog. The depth adjustment is far more accurate than a comparable Stanley one, and the slot means no floppy lateral adjustment. And that is not even the best part.

The trick shot is the union of the cap iron with the chip breaker. The chip breaker is essential another plane iron, turned around bevel up–thereby creating a double iron, twice as stiff as a Stanley plane. The cap iron is also adjustable up and down, and is tightened without the need of any tools, such as a screwdriver.

The final result of this is to create a “self setting” plane. Loosen the cap iron combo, take out the iron and sharpen it, and then re-assemble. No fiddling about with the chip breaker when the iron is put back in the plane. It is almost exactly the same depth every time.

Why didn’t this company crush the competition? Stanley bought them out, and after two decades of ownership, closed down the company. Just another example of rotten American business practices. Thankfully these champs are still in circulation on auction sites, though the prices vary wildly. Timing is everything–my retirement looms, and Melanie Jane bought me a G36 Jack plane for $49. Soon I will be officially “retard,” for all of you Borat fans. Sacha Baron Cohen introduced that term in Mt. Brook, Alabama, a place he loves to jape. The scene from Bruno in Mt Brook is even better than that.

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