June 19, 2020

Dad, I Finally Fixed The Switch

Dad, I Finally Fixed The Switch 
By John R. Greenwood

New switch on the lower left
This bandsaw is the first power tool my father taught me how to use. He used a lot of different tools to make a living, but when he was in his own garage/workshop, he enjoyed this *1945 Delta/Milwaukee 14 inch bandsaw. I was around ten when he first let me flip the switch and go solo. My father was firm when teaching me the dos and don'ts of anything with death or injury potential. Whether he was giving me instructions on the handling of a 30/30 Winchester or a 1940s bandsaw, I knew when he meant business. The word 'firm' may not be strong enough to describe dad's safety speeches. 

My first lessons on the Delta consisted of dad reaching over my shoulders and guiding my kid-hands with his heavily callused, blue-collar hands. Two fingers on his left hand held deep scars from a saw accident he'd had before I was born. He admitted that they were the result of carelessness. The apple didn't fall far because, in my early twenties, I earned the nickname, "Nine Fingers." We'll table that story for another episode. At first, I was only allowed to use the saw when dad was in the shop. My first build was probably a birdhouse. Once I proved I could be "fairly" responsible in the shop, I was shown where the key was, and as long as I asked, I could use it without supervision. I really enjoyed those quiet times building things. I loved using the bench vise and all the different hand tools. 

My father owned every tool imaginable. He also built a wall of shelves filled with Gerber Baby Food jars. The ones with the metal half-twist lids. Each jar was neatly marked and filled with every size nut, bolt, or screw ever made. If you needed it, it was there—somewhere. It wasn't a fancy shop, but it was functional.

Made in Milwaukee USA
With a year of retirement under my belt, I now have more time to tackle home improvement projects that have been neglected for years. Having the ability to visit places like Home Depot or my local hardware store during the week is a DIY'er's dream. Weekend visits are worse than Walmart on Black Friday. Now that Mrs. G. and I are at the tail end of our big projects, we have time to take on a few of those on the way, way, way back-burner. Today as I was rummaging around the cellar, I walked by dad's beloved bandsaw sitting neglected and cobweb-covered. I could hear my father preaching to me about taking care of my tools. It struck a chord. I decided to clean up the 75 year-old and take her for a spin.

I took my $30 Sears handcart and pulled the 300lb cast iron saw up out of the cellar, one cement step at a time. I'm not sure how I did it alone, but something tells me I wasn't. The old girl looked great in the June sunlight, but she needed a little sprucing up. She hadn't been out on a date in decades, so I grabbed a whiskbroom and some 3-In-One oil and got to work. The lead cord seemed okay, so I plugged her in. When I first flipped the switch, there was nothing but silence. I gave the belt a few turns by hand and wiggled the switch again. Suddenly like Rip Van Winkle (Goggle it kids) waking from his slumber, the electric motor began to moan and groan back to life. Another few hand-spins of the belt and the old Delta was singing once more. The sound of that old motor and spinning saw blade brought me back to dad's shop and the 1960s in an instant. The smell of pine sawdust, and that old musty shop filled the air. Best of all, I could hear my father breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe the kid finally gets it? It took a lifetime to grasp the impact of his lessons, but they all came flooding back like a tsunami. Cleaning up dad's old bandsaw had become a Father's Day gift I wasn't expecting. 

Work Light with old GE Bulb 
Once I had the saw cleaned up, it was time to try it out. I found an old piece of trim and flipped on the switch—nothing. I wiggled it a little, and as it snapped back to life, I suddenly remembered something. It had always been bad. It was 1968, and I could hear my father as clear as day saying, "I have to fix that switch someday." Well, dad, it's June 2020, today's the day! I ran back into the cellar and found a new one. It took less than five minutes to take something off a fifty-year to-do list. I'm sure I could detect a smile on the Delta/Milwaukee when I flipped her on this time. I'm guessing dad was smiling down too. It felt so good I even replaced the lead to the work light dad had mounted on the saw years ago.

Time to make a new key rack
I did leave the vintage socket and 60W GE light bulb intact as a reminder of days gone by. Bringing that 1945 saw back to life gave me more than good memories; it gave me the inspiration to tackle more long-overdue projects. I think the first one will be to use an old wooden pattern I saved from dad's shop. It's the cutout of a large key. You add hooks to it to hang your various keys on. My parents had one hanging in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. Dad had all the hooks marked with those plastic Label-Maker labels you made one letter, one squeeze at a time. The hook I remember most clearly was the one labeled "Shop." 

Happy Father's Day! 


* Founded in 1919, DELTA Power Equipment Corporation is still in existance and making bandsaws. The 2020 version of this saw is not all that different than the 1945 version I own. I was able to verify the year of manufacture by calling Delta Machinery's 1-800 number with the serial number. I was surprised to learn it was 10 years older than I thought. 

April 11, 2020


By John R. Greenwood 

Photo by the author.
Location: at the corner or Rt#9 and Waller Rd.

Click Here:  Author's Voice Recording of "Average"

My head feels like a telephone pole filled with sharp pointed objects. The pain is not from illness or fear. The hurt I feel comes from trying to understand the minds of people around me. How can we all be so far apart in how we look at the world? How can so many justify the moral vacuum that has sucked common courtesy from our society? I consider myself an average man with average abilities and an average view of life. I don’t expect more out of it than I put in. I am comfortable with you having yours as long as you are comfortable with others having theirs. Where did the train go off the rails? Listening to people taking judgmental potshots at each other has worn my optimism to the nubs. Then, just as I give up on “please” and “thank you,” I read a story about the unselfish heroism of Mr. or Mrs. Average putting their lives at risk for a total stranger. I can’t understand why we don’t drop the tug-of-war rope, tie it to the problem and start pulling it in the same direction. Wouldn’t life work better that way? It seems so simple to me. Its time to add the word compromise back into Webster’s book with all the other nice words. 

We’ve gone askew trying to convince each other our view is the only one that counts. We look in that magic mirror and see perfection. No one thinks they might be the problem. We need to make average more acceptable. Stop trying to make me—you. I’ll stop trying to make you—me. The frustrating part is listening to the fray and not getting pulled in to it. Restraint is hard. Acceptance is hard. Finding contentment in the middle of a shit-storm is like metal detecting a concrete driveway. The average among us want calm. We want our disagreements to be limited to Colgate or Crest, mayonnaise or mustard, Ford or Chevy. It’s not fear of confrontation; it’s a desire to get along with the neighbors. Why does every push need a pull? Sometimes we need to set down the remote and watch whatever shows up next. Maybe we’ll learn something we never knew—something we never understood before today. 

I’m not promoting rolling over like a lab puppy who just wants his belly rubbed. I understand the need to bark at a stranger from time to time. Barking doesn’t have to include a bite. Even dogs have Calico friends. 

Don’t interpret this as a soapy cry for soft and fuzzy. We have children and grandchildren who need us to set an example. Watch kids play. They don’t care one cheese-puff who’s political sign in the front yard. All kids want is two full teams so they can have a fair game. We shouldn’t fear diversity; we should embrace it and treat it as a gift. We don’t have to look over our shoulders too far to see how we got here.

What do I want to see tomorrow? 

Something average. 

March 30, 2020

Making Stuff

Making Stuff
By John  R. Greenwood

The last several weeks have been a strain on everyone. I'd like to express my gratitude and admiration to those whose job puts them on the front lines of the war on COVID-19. I'm fortunate and have little to complain about in comparison. My first priority is in the next room safe and sound. Although spurts of fear and uncertainty have caused some tears and a nightmare or two, my wife and I are trying to remain positive and productive. In that light, I've been spending some time making stuff. This week I made some stuff so I could make more stuff. 

My garage is only large enough for a Toyota, a motorcycle, a bicycle, and a vast assortment of yard tools. A cellar is not the ideal place to build stuff. I'm much happier building stuff out in the fresh air. Not only can I hear the birds, but the view better. It's also easier to clean up the sawdust. For the last forty-plus years, all my building projects have been squeezed in between work and other responsibilities. Now that I have more time to spend on projects, my impatience is more manageable, and the quality of my circular saw cuts are vastly improved. 

I started the week building a work table. I added casters for mobility. I didn't use any specific set of plans, although I did watch hours and hours of workbench building videos on YouTube. I'm not sure if that made the end result any better, but it did kill a lot of time. Watching DIY videos on YouTube also makes your morning coffee taste better. It's a scientific fact.The table came out better than expected. It also used up some scrap material that had been lying around. It's a good thing I added casters because the table weighs more than a Buick. When the weather warms up, I'll add some stain. 

The second project I'd wanted to do is to build a new set of saw horses. I made a set for my son for Christmas. I experimented with a simpler version for those. Although they looked great and were much easier to make, I'm not sure they will hold up as well. For the one pictured here, I dug out an old set of plans I'd used before. This version takes a little longer to make but will last longer. I'd probably still be using the originals if I'd maintained them better. I used pressure-treated lumber and exterior grade fasteners on my new set. If I take better care of them, they should outlast me. I'm planning to repaint my garage this summer. These puppies are strong enough to use for scaffolding. 

Three new pieces will help make my other building projects more enjoyable this summer. Having heavy-duty, portable work surfaces makes any DIY project go smoother. If we're going to be yard-bound this spring, we might as well be building, fixing, cleaning, or improving something while we're at it. 

For all of you who still have to drive a truck, tend to the ill or injured, keep retail afloat, protect us from fire and crime, I can't thank you enough. To stay engaged, I will try to post here more often. I will do my best to keep it light and entertaining. We get enough drama with the morning news to last all day. The best advice I can give right now is to keep moving. Building stuff is a good start. 

Be safe out there. 

Be sure to wear your safety glasses, earplugs, face mask, sunscreen, gloves, steel-toed boots, and hardhat. Don't forget to wash your hands, eat your vegetables, take your vitamins, and drink your juice. Be sure to get plenty of rest. Always warm up and stretch before any strenuous activity. 

Most importantly, "Have Fun!" 

See you on election day! 

This is one of the pair I made as a Christmas gift.
I used a technique called Shou Sugi Ban to finish it 

March 25, 2020

Bare-knuckle Snow-blowing

Bare-knuckle Snow-blowing 
By John R. Greenwood 

It’s a good day when you can snow blow your driveway with bare knuckles. There is a huge discrepancy between snow-blowing on November 24th and snow-blowing on March 24th. Knowing there is green grass in your near future feels good. The attitude gap is immeasurable. If it wasn’t for the half-dozen Amazon packages headed our way I might have left the snow to fend for itself. There is nothing more rewarding than clearing snow when the thermometer is hovering in the forties and the lawn was already raked and fertilized the week before. Knowing its Toro’s last hurrah puts a smile on your face and a skip in your boots. It did give me a chance to thank Old Faithful for getting me through the winter without a hitch. 

In my last post I vowed to stay positive and productive while this virus turns our lives upside down. My wife and I are doing our part to keep ourselves healthy and safe. We’re not ready to be sacrificed to keep stock earnings healthier. 

With that thought I’m going to make an effort to pump a little life into Raining Iguanas. I owe it to all those who have supported the blog and encouraged me to continue writing. Life got real over the last several months and priorities sometimes require recalibration. 

Yesterday while I was pretending to dig out from a pretend blizzard I snapped a few pictures to help get my mojo back. If you haven’t visited here in a while I want to thank you for stopping by. 


Frozen Tundra 

Dazed and Confused 

Snow Bunnies

Table Talk Pie 

Be Kind.
We're All In This Together

March 24, 2020

Jetson's To The Flintstone's

Jetson's To The Flintstone's
By John R. Greenwood

We've gone from the Jetson's to the Flintstone's in just a few weeks. Life as we have grown accustom, has come to a screeching halt. It was like watching Fred bury his heels in the dirt to avoid t-boning a runaway Brontosaurus. Our lives have gone from sixty to zero overnight. We may have turned the clocks ahead to save daylight, but our lives have been rolled back to save lives. And it's just the beginning. The severity of our predicament came abruptly, and put our Charmin' lives in the outhouse. 

I have always tried to flaunt my optimism. Some might argue that point, but I do my best to lean more Anne Lamott than Denis Leary. That theory was tested the other day when I exercised my social distancing skills by going for a walk down my road. I wrote about that walk in the previous post. My walk turned into a road adoption, and instead of my glass being half full, I came home 45 minutes later with an overflowing bag of empty liquor bottles and a diminished view of my fellow man. I found myself in a pessimistic pickle. 

Jump ahead two days. After reading dozens of stories about people pulling up bootstraps and grabbing tigers by the tail, I decided to see a doctor. I didn't need to make an appointment. I have a physician friend who makes house calls. All it takes to see her is a mouse-click and her expertise will come to your doorstep. Her name is Jen and you can find her blog Pound of Prevention here. I first met Jen as a member of a writing group. We were a small group of like-minded, beginning writers with hopes of learning more about the craft of sharing our thoughts with the rest of the world. Our group turned into something much more than that. It became an oasis of support and positivity. The residual effect has lasted for years and continues today. The piece she had posted was titled "Containing Coronavirus (Fears)." Who better to explain the current situation than a practicing physician with a compassionate heart. She did just that. Her thoughts were personal. Her advice comes from the soul of a physician/mother/wife/citizen/friend/writer. Her opinions and guidance have been mirrored by many across the internet. On the flip-side, there is no shortage of negative, judgmental, and whining commentary. I'm trying to avoid those as much as the virus itself. The best advice I heard came from the governor. He said it's vital that in all this turmoil, we stay, "productive." That can come in many forms and interpretations. That's the point, what's best for you may not be best for me. Find a comfort zone. Know there is light at the end, but we need the support of each other along the way. 

My goal is to stay positive and productive. Ranting about a littered roadside today is neither. I don't want to be Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men, I'm more comfortable in Fred Roger's shoes. I was going to delete my trash-rant post from the other day. But on second thought, I think I'll keep it there as a reminder—a sort of Turning Point of the American Revolution of Attitude and Productivity. 

Take a minute to visit the doctor on her website. She gives sound advice. 

Oh, one last thought! 

Who do you think was happier, George Jetson in Orbit City, working at Spacely Space Sprockets? Or, Fred living in Bedrock, working at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company? 

I'll give you a clue.

 "Yabba Dabba..."