Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Honorary 14–Gage #14 Fore Plane

The Original

My collection of Gage planes is now probably complete. I have two Stanley Gage planes, and now one of the original Gage planes, the first two a smoothing and a jack plane, the latter being an 18″ long Fore plane. This one is probably in better condition than the first two.

My plan is the following, and I have a schedule of about a year for it. I have all the windows for a good sized detached workshop, all of which cost between $1.50 and $2.00 each (long story). Each has never been used, and just need a good home. Thanks to the recent tornado, I have enough lumber for said workshop, that only needs to be milled, including pine, white oak, black (a form of red) oak, and assorted other hardwoods. Logical conclusion–new workshop, with Gage planes.

Here are the two different styles side by side:

19th v. 20th Century

The differences between the two manufacturer’s planes are mostly stylistic and cosmetic. The handles are beefie, on the old Gage, while the more stylish handles on the Stanley Gage were prone to breakage, as one of mine has a decent sized chip out of the tote. This handle is not likely to be broken:

Now that’s a Tote

I’ve thought of these as cabinetmaker’s planes, as opposed to the Stanley philosophy of the jack of all trades planes. The Gage could easily stand up to everyday use in a production cabinetmaker’s shop. Apparently that was their main market.

But not this specimen. It may have been used, but the blade had never been sharpened, as it still had the original hollow ground bevel on it. That sharpened quickly, but then the back had never been flattened. Flattening the back of a nineteenth century plane blade is not my favorite pastime.

I said my collection is “probably” complete. If the price is right, and the condition is as good as this one, it quickly becomes an investment instead of a collection. Maybe I should become a plane flipper, instead of just someone who has a bunch of flipping planes.

Meth Addicted Attack Squirrel Released into Alabama Woods

Or so the story goes. There is actually no physical evidence to prove that said squirrel was living on a diet of nuts and meth–only that it’s owner had a pot full of meth in his possession. Said owner was an ex-felon and probable future felon, as the pending charges against him are the following–possession of stolen property and a weapon, various other weapons charges, child endangerment, trafficking meth, and worst of all, possession of a wild animal.

Going to the slammer for squirrel possession will not get him much mileage with his fellow inmates, unless he confesses that he actually had a meth-charged trained attack squirrel. He originally gained attention from the authorities in northern Alabama because neighbors said he was keeping a squirrel that was aggressive toward people. I personally think that the squirrel was letting out a cry for help.

At any rate, the official story is the following. The police department that raided the house of said alleged meth head released this statement: “There was no safe way to test the squirrel for meth.” This information comes from AL.Com. Therefore the beast was set loose in the woods. Currently, the whereabouts of the squirrel are unknown, so watch your back when you go outside..

The Time I was Mistaken for Being Black

This has a food angle to it, so I thought I should write about it. I was in NYC for job interviews, and was really hungry. I checked out the yellow pages for food tours, and some of the most popular were soul food tours of Harlem, complete with fried chicken and collard greens. As I had eaten both of those the day before I left Alabama, I said, “What the hell is this?” I had pizza instead.

Then came the great interview for a job at Connecticut State University as a Professor of African-American Literature. When I walked into the interview room, it was more than obvious that the interview committee thought I was Black, as a Southern PhD who had written widely about African-American writers. I’m the whitest guy, genetically, that you know. I just do love a great writer, and some good soul food, but we cook the soul food ourselves.

The interview was crash and burn, but entertaining. I was asked if black students would question me about me teaching black writers (none ever has), and I responded that the knowledge of literay texts is not genetic–you learn it or not. That logical answer got me nowhere.

Alas, I am in the warm South now instead of the frigid Northeast. We may have an epidemic of stupid down here, but we know good food. If you know better than that, let me know. I’ll give you a job interview.

Three Drying Oils, Natural Version–Many People Are Talking About This

Centuries of Technology have produced These Three Containers

Time to cut straight to the issue–the oil content of three of the most common drying oils. This information comes from the scholarly text Painting Materials.

  1. Walnut Oil–63-65%
  2. Sunflower Seed Oil–50%
  3. Linseed Oil–35-40%

And yet Linseed Oil is the most commonly used. Why?

Linseed Oil

To answer the question–tradition and availability. All these oils have a single molecular bond, which means they dry into a polymer when oxidized–i.e., when they are exposed to air (O2). Of the natural oils, only Tung oil has a double molecular bond, which makes it the most waterproof natural finish.

However, when heated for a long period of time, these natural oils form a double molecular bind, which means they dry faster, and become a durable polymerized surface. Heated linseed oil is often sold as “Danish” oil, which is a meaningless term that is used for all kinds of oil finishes.

Raw Linseed oil is a trendy diet item as well, sold as flaxseed oil. This has a very short shelf life, so treat it accordingly. You could just boil it and put it on your dining room table.

“Boiled” Linseed oil is just cheap Linseed oil with a bunch of toxic chemical dryers added. It makes a nice enough finish, and makes a very good base for an exterior paint, which is what I use it for. I don’t use it in any living area, but that could just be overly fastidious me.

Linseed oil , or Stand oil, sold to the art crowd (to make oil paint) is extremely high quality thickened oil, and is very expensive. No wonder a Van Gogh costs so much.

Sunflower Seed Oil

This is on my old Oak dining room table, which belonged to my grandmother, so the table has been around for awhile–she was born in the nineteenth century. This oil is cheap, durable, and dries fast. In fact, it is barely a fraction of the cost of a high quality Linseed oil. If you want to spend more for Linseed oil, just think that it is only money.

Walnut Oil

I loves me some Walnut oil. Expensive, yes, but it smells great and also tastes great. I keep mine in the frigernator to make it last longer. It also makes a superior base for a wax finish. It was also allegedly the secret ingredient for many of the old master painters

Making a Drying Oil

Any of these oils can be thickened using the old “stand” method of drying oils, which is leaving them out in the summer sun. In short, they stand out in the sun, which is quite intense here in the South. The danger is having the oil turn rancid, which could also explain the popularity of Linseed oil–less oil content means a lower chance of spoilage.

Which brings me to all the woodworking folks on the internet who insist that all natural oils turn rancid. These are drying oils, dopes. Olive oil isn’t, as with many cooking oils. The reason that the Louvre and the Uffizi galleries don’t stink is that the paintings were made with drying oils. More than a few were painted with tempera paint, which was often made with eggs as well. See how tough a dried egg yolk is sometimes.

Just because many people are saying something stupid doesn’t make it true. The great English woodworker Robin Wood (magnificent name, btw) pointed out that buying an expensive synthetic finish is illogical, when natural finishes are traditional, abundant, and less expensive–not to mention food safe and totally non-toxic. However, if someone admires the skull and cross-bones on the label, they should go for it. See who turns rancid first.

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.

The Best Food Joke of all Time

If you want to start an argument, ask who is the comic GOAT (greatest of all time). Evidence submitted: Richard Pryor. As comedy fans know, Pryor once set himself on fire while free-basing cocaine. His response was to turn it it into a comedy routine involving milk and cookies.

Let me tell you what really happened… Every night before I go to bed, I have milk and cookies. One night I mixed some low-fat milk and some pasteurized, then I dipped my cookie in and the shit blew up.

Richard Pryor

He had a zinger to finish this bit:

I’m not addicted to coke, i just love the way it smells

Richard Pryor

Pure genius.

Kitchen Invasion, Part Six: Eastern Red Cedar Rolling Cart

Rolling Invasion

Because everyone needs a piece of kitchen furniture in their living room, our new rolling cart currently lives in there. Its original home was the bathroom, an even stranger place for kitchen furniture. It didn’t stay there long before it was put to use.

The design is very loosely based on a piece that is being sold by an Amish furniture shop. I made it more complicated than necessary, as it ended up with about twenty different parts. However, all those parts make it incredibly sturdy. The wheels roll so well I’m thinking about entering it in the next Talladega 500.

The first time we used it it worked a a portable table that was covered in pizza makings. Next week it turns into a corporate cart, as Melaine has to organize a whole series of conference calls, and needs the extra workspace. It should be able to take the abuse–the finish is a no VOC water based polyurethane, hard enough to be used on gym floors. Over that is an equally hard floor polish. Corporate America is on notice.

A Floating Dairy in the Netherlands

Thomas Jefferson, during his travels through Europe, found the Dutch to be the most prosperous people there, unlike France, and the kingdoms of Germany, where the hated aristocracy hogged up all the cash. They have proved it once again, by having the world’s first floating dairy farm in Rotterdam. They are so clever, as are the journalists of Agence France-Presse, who reported this story.

Talk about vertical integration, and this barge has it. Three stories, with the dairy cows on the top. The middle floor is for cheese, yogurt, and butter making. The bottom floor is to age the cheese. The whole thing goes up and down with the tide, though the owners say that the cows don’t get sea sick.

It only gets better. The cows eat surplus food, such as leftover grapes, grass clippings, and barley from a brewery. No commercial feed needed. The cow stuff becomes pelletized fertilizer, and the cow pee is recycled, astronaut style, into drinking water. The inputs are miniscule.

The Dutch government thought the farmers who came up with this idea were crazy. What they were was crazy smart.

Creole Grillades and Fresh Peas

Before the Swallowtails Eat All the Parsley

This is a close copy of the Grillade recipe in The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook. As I cannot follow any instructions, I added one ingredient.


One cube Steak, cut into small pieces

Bacon Fat

1/2 Onion, Diced

1 clove Garlic

1 tablespoon Flour

2 medium Tomatoes, milled

Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper

Chopped Parsley

To start, cook the onions in the bacon fat. Add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds. The addition of the flour makes the roux–brown it properly. Add the steak, and cook for about a minute. Finally add the tomatoes and chicken stock for something of a creole sauce. The parsley is garnish.

We use LA rice to go with this, and we just bought a basket of perfectly fresh pink eye purple hull peas. What we didn’t eat went into the frizzer for the winter. We are the ants in the Ant and Grasshopper fable, as we also buy twenty pounds of rice at a time. We just about need a bigger frizzer.


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