Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trapping Muscrats on the Pec

Built this little jig thinking I could make the cheek cuts for the tenons on my table saw.
 Bad idea. No good control or adjustment over the vertical plumb which lead to an angled tenon on my practice piece. You can see from the pictures that follow that I solved the problem.

Which brings me to my story of another bad idea I had back in the 70's and an encounter I had with my ol' neighbor Bink. I had decided to suppliment my teaching income by trapping Muskrats in the Pec river. At the time the hides were selling for around $3.  The first step, getting traps was easy. I ordered a dozen 1 - 1/2 single spring traps from Herders for $35. There 3' Kodiac Bear trap (could be used as a foot scraper!) caught my eye but that's another story. Now the banks of the Pec are very steep and muddy I was going to need something to float down the river and set my traps. At the time the local utility was putting in under ground lines and there were many of those large wooden reels all over the area. I latched on to a 6' diameter monster for the wood. I decided by using a couple of 30 gallon steel barrels I had I could build my very own raft! I set about this task in the school shop, after school on a Friday. I would work all nigh if I had to, and I did so I could set traps Saturday. Around 3 am the town cop drove by the shop, saw the lights on and wanted to know what I was doing. After hearing my plans he just shook his head and drove off.

7 am Saturday morning and the sun was coming up. My raft was assembled. Huck Finn would have  been proud. It was small 3' by 4' but sturdy with a rim all around to keep the barrels in place. Wow, was it heavy. Had a heck of a time getting it into my 1959 Chev truck but managed somehow. Running on adrenalin I went home to get my traps and gear needed to set out my trap line. This was going to be great.

Push pole
Rope to tie up raft
Wire cutters
22 pistol

I parked by the bridge on Roller Coaster road about a mile from Bink's farm and unloaded the raft. I was struggling with it and as luck would have it Bink and his son Randy (one of my students) driving by stopped and gave me a hand dragging it to the rivers edge. As they watched over the bank and in it went. I tied it up and went back to the truck to get my traps and gear. I was pumped! Soon I would be poling my way up river, trappin' rats.

Just as I started loading on my gear I thought (imagine that) maybe I should test it first before I load all my stuff on it. See how it handles. So I took everything off the raft. As Bink and Randy watched I put one foot on the raft and just like that, woosh, it flipped like a pancake! They were stunned and I was up to my waste in mud looking at my upside down raft! They helped my drag it out of the river and load it back onto my truck. I said I didn't expect that and Bink politly agreed with me. I'm sure they had a good laugh on the ride back to there farm. Some years later in one of our visits Bink and I had a good laugh recalling the raft story.

Next time - Behind the curtain...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bink's Bench

New project in the works. Bink's bench. As it is a memorial to his life and passing it will be a labor of love. Along the way of turning some of Bink's home sawn oak into this bench I will share some of the stories that I encountered over the years as I got to know my neighbor across the street.

A widowed retired farmer, Bink had many stories to tell and spent long hours at his kitchen table, in his chair, looking out his window, keeping an eye on one project or another I always had going in my yard across the street. Living into his 80's Bink had traded in his tractor for a truck and always kept a hand in watching over the family farm and crops that one of his son's took over. I had the pleasure of having some of his children and one of his grand children in shop classes that I taught at the local high school!

After his passing, a daughter, Kathy asked if I could build a bench out of the home sawn oak that Bink had stored in his garage. The bench would be placed at his church in an outside sitting area as a memorial. Kathy sent me a picture (shown above) of what she and the family had decided on.

Step one - Drawing up a working set of plans and selecting the material.
Anyone that has ever worked with ROUGH home sawn material knows the challenges it presents and can appreciate how Menards individually wraps and prices hardwood boards. For me it was a matter of sizing up individual boards and determining the individual bench parts that could be gotten from each one.

From past experience I know the waste that can be generated trying to smooth long, wide. cupped and twisted boards with a surface planer. To minimize this I decided to take each rough board, rip and crosscut the pieces for the bench first. Then surface each piece to its finish thickness. This worked great.

After some final ripping, jointing and cross cutting I had the pieces to finished dimensions and could begin the joinery work. Drilling square holes is no problem with the mortise drill.
 Location and layout of the many individual mortises is tricky and will required some focused concentration. Then it will be on to cutting the tenons on the mating parts to complete the bottom of Bink's bench.

Next time, Trapping Muskrats on the Pec river.