Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cart update!

We've added more trim, built the sides, and painted Josie's cart. Tomorrow I'll paint some decorative red and cream-colored fanciness on it, but for now, here's a pic that Dave snapped tonight after we took it for a spin.

Technically, she shouldn't be lying down in harness. But you gotta admit, that's cute!  Good dog, Josie!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fabbards and silliness.

Once of the earliest projects on this blog was my fan scabbard, or "fabbard". I used a very soft piece of leather and lined it with -- well, shoot, you can read about it here.  It was never a great design, and I think I only used it once or twice before retiring it. 

We're getting ready to attend a few events this summer, now. I knew I'd be wanting to have a fan along, so I decided to make a better one out of a scrap of latigo leather I had in my stash. I stamped it with one of my favorite leather stamps to make a simple but pretty design, punched two holes and ran a fastening throng through, and stitched it up -- start to finish in about an hour. Can't get much easier than that! 

We're headed to the Oregon Country Fair this Sunday, and while it's not actually a medieval/renaissance/ye olde anything, I still plan on wearing something I've made and handing around my blog cards. (Hey, if you see me there, come introduce yourself and say hi!) So the other night I refreshed my veil-and-wimple skills. I think it's a good look for me. I remember being brokenhearted as a small child when my mom told me I couldn't be a nun because we weren't Catholic. And think of the money I'll save on sunblock! 

Admittedly, I am hamming it up a bit for this shot. Perhaps I should photoshop in a halo?
You could print this out for your very own "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion" saint card. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013


It's coming up on the second anniversary of this blog. First of all, thank you for reading! Although I have always enjoyed talking to myself, I must admit it is gratifying to know that you all find the stuff I do interesting.

I always figured that the most common reaction to my blog would be people asking me "Where do you get your ideas?" but that's not it. The most common reaction is a look of bewildered wonder, followed by "How do you learn to make all this stuff?"

Society today conditions us from an early age to believe we can't do things, or that certain things take years of study or training to accomplish. We buy things from stores because they are readily available and we have been taught that making things is hard, takes a long time, requires costly tools and materials, and good results  are only achieved after long practice. And in some cases, that is certainly true. I'm sitting here at a computer that I certainly could not build on my own without extensive schooling, complicated materials, and precision tools.

But look at society in earlier centuries: very few things, if any, were bought ready-made. Wool from sheep was spun into yarn and cloth to make clothing, bags, and blankets. Rushes from the riverbanks were cut and made into mats, baskets, brooms, and hats. Flax was cultivated, retted, and spun into thread for linen. Grain crops made flour for baking. Trees were felled and became homes and furniture, handles for tools, fences, carts and wagons. Hunting provided meat for the table, along with the animals in the croft outside. If you had someone who could run a forge and make things from iron, you were pretty much set!

If you look at basic tools from then and compare them to now, they are much the same. Hammers, saws, and axes; needles, scissors, and looms. They haven't changed because they haven't needed to; their use is simple. If these tools had been difficult to use or took years to learn, they would not have survived so long. No one would have bothered!

This is not to say that skill in use cannot be increased over time. Certainly, someone who has practiced a craft for years and developed their technique will produce a more refined result than a beginner. But these tools and techniques survive because common folk with basic skills can produce results that are adequate for use. For example: the tunic pattern we've all seen. A length for the body and two smaller ones for sleeves worked together with a basic stitch -- this made a perfectly good garment in reasonable time, allowing the maker to create clothing for the whole family.

I'm going on and on, here, but what I want you to realize is that it's usually not that difficult to make stuff! And once you get it into your head that you can make things, it's almost a game to see what you want to try to make next.

In the words of Jonathan Coulton, in his song "A Talk with George":

So enjoy yourself, do the things that matter
Cause there isn't time and space to do it all
Love the things you try, drink a cocktail, wear a tie
Show a little grace if you should fall

Don't live another day unless you make it count
There's someone else that you're supposed to be
Something deep inside of you that still wants out
And shame on you if you don't set it free!

Workin' like a dog.

The holiday weekend afforded Dave and me a large amount of free time. He started making sounds about yardwork, so I showed him my plans for Josie's cart and asked his opinion about a few measurements. Before I knew it, we were in the garage sorting through the scrap lumber.

My original sketch would have placed the shafts really low on the dog's body, and I wanted them to be level with her shoulder. Unlike 4-wheeled wagons which support their own weight, 2-wheeled carts have to be balanced so they don't put a lot of weight on the dog's back. We designed side pieces that extended down from the cart bed to raise the shafts up to a comfortable height.

Originally, they were just going to be triangles, but Dave encouraged me to fancy them up a little bit, and with the help of a scroll saw I cut a scalloped edge and a heart from each one. It was my first go with a scroll saw and I didn't do a great job. My hearts are a little lopsided. Dave says it adds to the charm.              

And as I always say, if anyone wants to make a big deal of it, they can build me a cart. 

After a lot of sawing and gluing and screwing things together, it started to look like a cart!

We re-purposed wheels from a old golf caddy. They are solid rubber, so I never have to worry about getting a flat or keeping the tire pressure up. We decided to make the shafts in two pieces so that we could fit the cart in to the car when we want to go places. All it took was two holes on each shaft and some Clevis pins to hold them together.

Once we got the wheels on and the shafts put together, I put the harness on Josie and adjusted the traces (straps that go from the harness and attach to the cart front). Dave slid the shafts through the shaft loops at her sides, I clipped the traces in place, and Josie took her first steps as a real beast of burden.

Pepsi as her first cargo. I think they owe us a royalty for product placement, or something,
because Josie makes  it look good!
She showed no hesitation, just walked on ahead -- in fact, I had to keep reminding her to slow down! When we came to the corner, the outside wheel clipped the curb and gave a little bounce that made her pause and look back, but only for a moment and then it was full steam ahead again.

The cart still needs some finish work and a coat of paint -- and we're thinking about wooden slats for the sides instead of my original plan for woven reed. And the bells. It still needs the bells!

What a good dog!

That's right. It's gonna look even more awesome than this! And you have to admit -- this is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wagon plans!

There is nothing like me when I'm excited about a project. My brain starts popping and fizzing, and I'm pretty much unable to use it for anything remotely useful or important, because I'm too busy sending all my synapses firing on The Most Important Project Ever -- which is the current one, obviously.

Dishes done? Floors swept? Dusting? You must be nuts. I can't do any of that! Because I have to sit on this computer, staring at pictures of wagon wheels and complaining about how much they cost and how far away they are!

I have a picture in my mind of how this will all look in the end and it consumes me. I spent my morning break  the other day wandering around the local secondhand building materials shop. They didn't have any wheels. Which wasn't exactly surprising and didn't bother me much because there's more to carts than wheels. You need a box thingy (technical term) to set on top to hold stuff! I found a 15" x 30" piece of 3/4" plywood and thought "Cart floor!" Then I stared at table legs and banister spindles for a while before deciding that they were too ornate and short for practical use as cart components or shafts. I tried to imagine how I'd attach wheels to my cart and figured there would be an axle of some sort. I bought some extra wood pieces to make a housing (or whatever it's called) for the axle. My entire expenditure for the materials was $3.

I bought dowels that will be fitted into drilled holes on the cart floor. I will weave basket reeds left from corseting to make the body/basket/box thingy and I even thought to make the front two corner posts taller so I could hang the bells there.

Yes, bells. Because while I was looking for wheels at a thrift shop, I saw this bag of 18 brass bells for only $2 and they were the perfect touch of fancy for my (still mostly imaginary) cart.

The weekend comes and there is yardwork to be done. We head to the hardware store for some needed items and my brain is all wheelswheelswheels and I coax Dave into looking at wheels with me. I'm holding a nice-sized grey-plastic-rimmed wheel in my hands, imagining the spokes painted brown to look like wood, and it pleases me somewhat. Then Dave interrupts my happily fizzing brain by asking, "How do you intend to attach these wheels to your cart?

"Oh, with a thingy. You know, that rod. An axel. Made of... something. Metal, I guess. Whatever. How do you make wheels stay on that thing, anyway?"

Dave makes mouth noises about something technical sounding and I realize that those noises are probably important to the success of this cart. So I immediately promote him to Chief Wheel-Attacher Guy. We end up not buying the wheels then because Dave says something something measure something. Also, priorities something something.

"It's okay," I say. "I'll just make the reed basket part and you can attach the wheels when they're ready!" But Dave says no, because he'll need to something something power tools something flip cart over something break it.

"Did I tell you I've got bells?" I interrupt him. "To hang on the front? They're gonna be perfect!" My hands make little grasping motions like I'm holding a string of bells and I make "ching-ching-ching!" noises to show him how incredible it will look and sound.

"Do you have a plan for this thing? On paper? With measurements? Anything?"

"...No...t yet! But I will!"

And so I came home and drew them up. See?

So technical! Woo hoo!