For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

Please visit my new blog:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Flour Power: macarons

Been talking about horsepower a lot lately. Time for some flour power. Earlier this year I picked up the Bouchon Bakery cookbook from Thomas Keller. As a challenge to myself I wanted to learn more about French baking. To me, the French have it nailed. Their bakery cannot be topped.
Bouchon is one of the top bakeries in the country (if not THE top bakery). Who better to learn from? I've come to the conclusion that Mr. Keller's bakers are actually an ancient coven of witches and sorcerers. That is the only way I can explain the nearly three inch wide macarons that they make. It HAS to be witchcraft!
As a baker (I'm good...but not a pro), I don't mess up very many recipes. Macarons are the only recipe that I have failed three times on. The previous record is two. On my fourth attempt, which was yesterday, I finally had success. They aren't perfect, but they were good enough for me to say I got it. Plenty of tweaking to do yet, but I'm getting there now.
I hadn't planned on tackling macarons just yet. Back in September, I visited some friends in Oakland and a few of us took the drive up to Yountville so that I could make my pilgrimage. After having what is simply the best tasty treats I've ever had in my life, I was determined to give the infamous macaron a try.
I'm not giving away all of the recipe...nor all of the process. That cookbook has a copyright, after all.
Meringue is the key. Beat the hell out of those eggs. And when the recipe says to get your sugar water to 248 MEANS 248 degrees! Gotta hit that number. That spoon is standing up all on its own, that meringue is about as stiff as I think I can make it. It's also super rich. You won't use all of it either. Actually, you'll make 3-4 times the amount that you need for the cookies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Mysteries of Pushrod Tubes

One of the troubles of building these old British engines is when you start mixing parts from different years. I have a '67, with a '66 cylinder head, '71 pushrod tubes, and '66 tappet blocks. My old set up was '71 head, tappet blocks, and tubes.
When I ordered my new tappet blocks to put into the big bore kit, I ordered '67 style. I'll admit, I wasn't thinking about all of the mismatching. Had I ordered '71 style, I could have saved some work. However, the '66 cylinder head would have still required a little work.
I mentioned this mismatch the other day, but I didn't take many pictures. Since I've got the top end back off of the engine, it's sharing time!

This is one of the tappet blocks from my old engine. Look down on the left'll see some cracks in the bottom of the cylinder. Oops! Anyway, this block is different from what I'm running now. The differences are subtle, but they will change the way the engine goes together.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Taking care of business

Last night and today were dedicated to bikes. I got a lot of work done.

Getting started on the primary drive. This carrier will hold the clutch basket and cush-drive.

Triumph...building and screwing up

Last night I put the engine into my chopper. I probably should have waited until I had a set of helping hands to assist me, but I wanted to move forward. The engine weighs a hair over 125 pounds. I managed to lighten it a little by not installing the outer transmission case and the primary drive.

There she is. LaCucaracha has her engine.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Getting that engine together

It's kind of nice to be moving on from being crushed by a minivan! With the energy level coming back to somewhat normal, I'm starting to be a little more productive.
I got the top end of my engine torqued up, and it is ready to drop into the frame. I'll have my chopper complete just in time to call the insurance company and tell them it's time to put my bikes into storage!
Pushrods from Johnson Cams. These are really nice steel pieces. My old ones were aluminum. The aluminum ones are nice for reducing weight on a race bike, but don't always stand up to everyday use.

Engine building

I am by no means an expert engine builder. This is only the third one (actually, same one third time!). I'm not going to try and teach anyone how to build a Triumph T120R through this blog. There's very little that I can show that is not already common knowledge in the engine world.

Tools for sale

I still have some tools for sale. Contact me at
The list and pictures follow:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What to do now?

So, what does a guy like me do when he gives up a hobby? Well...he starts spending time with the other two overly time consuming hobbies.
I won't show pictures of the macaron incident from today. I'm sure I would be arrested for committing such a crime. Let's just say when you whip the meringue into your batter...don't mix in too much! At least the French butter cream turner out well. That stuff can be frozen until I try the cookies again. Not a total loss. To my credit, it was the first time I tried macarons.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What a response, pt 2!

Hey all!
I've been surprised and overwhelmed by the response to selling my tools.WAY more than I expected. A few of the tools are very popular, and I want to make sure that I get everyone lined up in the correct order. I am going to sift through emails this evening after work. If you have emailed me, thank you! I want to make sure that I respond to everyone in the correct order (the LV router and LN floats are the cool kids that everyone want to hang out with).
Thanks for your patience.
I believe I have replied to everyone so far. If I have not, I will get you tonight.
I don't want to nag anyone, but if you have asked about any particular tools and you are deciding to NOT take it/them, please let me know. The lines for a few of them are several people deep.
And I phase out of woodworking, my focus will be more on metal work, mainly in the realm of choppers/motorcycles. I will probably start showing a little more on the baking side of things as well. FLOUR AND HORSEPOWER! If you're interested in that kind of stuff, I hope you stick around.
Thanks a bunch!

Monday, October 7, 2013

What a response!

Just when I thought nobody ever visited my little corner of the interweb. Thanks to those that have emailed showing interest in taking away my tools. I look forward to sending them to good homes! As any sales become final, I'll scratch them off of the list in my previous post.
Thanks again.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ain't had the time

UPDATE: Tools that are lined out have committed buyers. Others are still available.

Since my wreck back in April, I have not picked up a woodworking tool in anger. Nearly six months has passed, I'm just now starting to get back to the point where I have energy left at the end of the day. Sitting around and not doing much has left me with a lot of time to think.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gorgeous Little Folding Knife

Earlier this summer a good friend and coworker took off for brighter horizons. Before he left, he handed me one of the nicest gifts I've ever been given. To me, it's as awesome as it was unexpected. He told me it was the last one he made before he left knife making. Thank you Mr. Webb, you are an all around fine Southern Gentleman, receiving such a gift is quite an honor.

I'm not a knife collector, I've got a couple cheap pocket knives and a couple kitchen knives. There is something to be said for a hand made folder!! A-2 tool steel, with a pronounced hollow grind.

Friday, August 30, 2013

He's baaaaaack

So, for the last couple of years I've dealt with spotty internet service because for some silly reason I didn't change carriers. That has finally been taken care of. Gone is the overpriced, slow, unreliable service of my old carrier (Sprint, by the way...ugh...worst service in Mil Lucky). I had no service for a few weeks while I waited for my new service to be installed (ATT, not too shabby so far).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Oh the horror!

What follows is rough account of going through a "sudden-stoppage-incident." In other words, hitting a 5,000 pound minivan on a 300 pound motorcycle. It's not a cry for sympathy or cry-baby bullshit. Just a description of an event. I don't think it's too gory for weak of stomach, but crunching bones are crunching bones after all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Norris plane, I may have crossed a line. I kinda sorta dropped a bunch of dough on a Norris 51. If there was ever a sign that I need to get healed up and back to work, this is it!

Just a bunch of pictures, no captions needed. The only thing to say is that I will see about making a new iron and chip breaker so that I don't use up the original.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More reading

If I'm going to be bored, I might as well read useful stuff. This is the study of PM-V11 steel from Lee Valley. The new steel has been around a little while now, but this is the first time I sat down and read how Lee Valley did their testing. I thought it was interesting and worth sharing with others who had not read it.
I haven't tried any of the PM-V11 chisels or irons yet. None of my planes need new irons at the moment, and I can't just replace good irons. As a plane or two needs fresh steel, I will likely go the PM route.
Apologies to Lee Valley, but I doubt I'll try the PM chisels. I'm stuck on my L-N chisels. So, unless a set shows up at my house ( know my address), I won't be checking them out any time soon.
Anywho, just sharing what I thought was an interesting read. Have a good evening!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A good read

Being a Baldwin, this was of particular interest to me.
Thanks to Lost Art Press for posting the letter!

I have a small collection of E.Baldwin planes. Enos is Austin's dad. They made really good planes that are as useful today as they were 160+ years ago.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Learning to saw

When it comes to woodworking, this is probably the most useful podcast/video I've seen for quite a while. Bob Rozaieski at the Logan Cabinet Shoppe put together a great presentation on how he improved his own sawing. The problems he described are very similar to my own issues when I saw. I cut fairly well, but I'm always slightly out of true in exactly the same way.
If you're into woodworking, you're probably familiar with Bob. Just in case you've never found his site, though, now you know.
Once I'm back on my feet and working, I'm definitely going to make the adjustments from that podcast and see if I can improve my saw cuts.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Gawd...I'm bored. I've got a list of things to do a mile long, but I'm not capable of doing much more than sitting on the couch and rotting my brain on daytime TV.
Thankfully, there are these devices called computers! The internet is a lot better than soap operas. I've been spending some time watching vids at Lie-Nielsen and Paul Sellers. I've got some new ideas in my head and can't wait to get healed so I can get back to life.
Once I'm capable of doing work again, the first thing I plan on is rethinking how I sharpen. Sure, I can get pretty good edges now, but I think my method could be improved. After that, it's time to improve my tool storage.
Because of the breaks in my pelvis, I may not be able to ride a bike at all this year. That means that the time I would usually spend out being a hooligan may be spent being crafty. We shall see. I'm kind of miffed that I can't ride my new bike.
Another thing that I'm miffed about is that I can barely type. I take pride in knowing how to actually type, but my left wrist isn't quite healthy yet.
Anywho, I'm just typing off into space to kill the boredom. I have a small project that my dad is going to help with over the next few days. Who am I kidding, he'll probably do all of it while I point and supervise!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

More on passenger pegs

Before my accident, I made some progress on my peg mounts for the Aprilia. I'm bored as hell right now, so I'll get the pics up that show the current state of the peg mounts. With any luck, I'll be able to ride this bike sometime this year. It kind of sucks owning such a beautiful machine and not being able to enjoy it. Anyway, enough of my whining.

The frame stand offs are cut from 1/2" stainless hex. I went with that because the factory body mounts are made from hex stock. They will get a little cosmetic treatment to match the factory parts at the end.

Cutting down the OD for the male threads, which will be 8mm. Look close and you'll see a funny spot. It took a few passes to get through it, but that little spot was sort of hard. It happens, and luckily wasn't enough to mess up the part.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Crash and Burn pt 2

Here's a few pics of my crash, it got pretty gnarly. Accompanied by one handed typing!
About a half hour before the accident. I built this bike, and I'm pretty proud.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Crash and burn

First day out on a bike ended badly. I was doing a check ride on my friend's bike after some tuning, and got tangled up with a mini-van. Four total broken bones, 12 days in the hospital, and a lot of pain later...I'm recouping. See y'all again soon as I heal up and slowly (very, very, very slowly) get back to a normal life.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Passenger peg mounts

My new bike is an Aprilia RSVR 1000 Factory. It's dead sexxxy, and has more horsepower than I should be trusted with. In fact, it is 131 pounds lighter, and has triple the horsepower of the Sportster that I traded in. Being the "Factory" model, as best as I can tell it was never equipped with any passenger seat or pegs. Normal models would have had a back seat and pegs on the exhaust hangers.
Provided my looks and personality don't get in the way, I thought it might be good to equip my new bike to carry a passenger, just in case I meet some unfortunate young lass who has bad taste in men and decides she'd like to go for a ride.

Basically I'm using a piece of scrap 1/4" aluminum as my stock. The idea was to see if I could squeeze a pair of mounts out of it. Here, it has already been cut in half. It was a bit of a "U" shape. I also had to dodge some existing holes. I pulled the mount dimensions from the exhaust bracket, and just eyeballed the rest.


Pre-blow up, my chopper was a 650cc machine with twin 30mm Amal carburetors. Post-blow up, she is a 750cc machine, sporting a single 34mm Mikuni round slide. Not knowing a bunch about Mikuni carburetors, I consulted the lads over at the Brit Bike Forum. After a brief description of the motor, I was given a good starting point to set up my new Mikuni.
Now it's just a matter of tearing into the Mikuni a little bit, and finding out what jetting I have. Then it's off to see my new friend at the dealership for jets. I hope she can get them, because searching for the exact one's on my barely-faster-than-dial-up internet is a real pain.

My new 34mm Mikuni, with the top and slide removed. See the three small holes at the bottom of the main bore? The one to the left houses the air correction jet, it's a tiny little bugger.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Triumph Cylinder Head

During the tragic valve/piston integration incident, my cylinder head got really tore up. The left side combustion chamber got chewed hard core. That's what happens when you throw valves. So, I had two spare heads, I sent one along with my other parts during the whole Let's-Rip-Mark-Off-Fest...and interestingly enough never got it back. I have my suspicions about that. I think it got rebuilt and sent to another customer. Evidence? No...but he said it was ready to run about a week before telling me it couldn't be repaired.
When it became apparent that I was getting hosed, I got hooked up with Phil Wyatt (thank you, Adam). Phil took what was otherwise a chunk of scrap aluminum and turned it into a gorgeous functioning part. Phil charged me $600 to do some pretty extensive work. About half of what my previous source was trying to charge me for half the amount of work!

Valve go BOOM! The intake valve clattered around in there and did its best to destroy my head. For most of us, this is unrepairable. On the bright side, there are a few good Triumph head guys out there that can actually salvage it. We may be looking into that for the next engine. For now, this head is shelved.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

back in time...

I spent a chunk of my morning pulling pictures off of my old computer, and got sidelined into viewing hundreds of pics from the last couple of years. Thanks to digital cameras, we no longer have to share mischief and mayhem with the kid at the photo place...honestly, it would ruin their life (no need to worry, I'll try not to share any of those pictures)

ahhhh...when I first met LaCucaracha. This machine ruined my life, and I've been happy ever since. A throw back to a bygone era of chinchilla fur and guys wearing daisy-dukes.
This is from the day we fired her up the first time. I didn't even have a side stand on the bike yet...which is why there's a 4x4 underneath. I had a Honda Nighthawk front end, and had to stretch the stem out in order to make it fit. Don't try that at home unless you really trust your welding abilities!


It's spring time, when a young man's mind turns to thoughts of gasoline fumes, burning tires, and all things horsepower. At this moment, the lower half of my chopper's engine is out for grinding and balancing. It's a waiting game. I ordered some brandy new Crower rods for my girl, and they had to make 'em since they are not always in stock. Add to that a Morgo 750cc big bore kit, some Johnson cams, and a head from Phil Wyatt, and you've got yourself a hot rod. Every bit has been worth the wait.

Light Sweet Crude.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Change in focus? Flour and horsepower?

You might notice, in the time to come, that the focus here at the Monastery is going to change a bit. Let's face it, on my list of priorities, woodworking is third. In front of it are bikes and baking, my other two interests. None of these three hobbies are cheap, by any stretch of the imagination. They are all very time consuming as well. As such, most of my resources go to the first two.
I only have a couple woodworking projects on the slate, maybe two or three.
Baking? Well...I bake something at least once a week. Boredom with the ordinary has driven me into more advanced stuff. Cheesecakes are easy-peasy. Pastries are the hard stuff.
Bikes? LOML is a 67 Triumph chopper. Been with that machine for several years now. She's getting a new engine as we speak. I also have a new (to me) Aprilia RSVR 1000 Factory (135 horsepower, say it with me...). I plan to spend a lot of time with both.
Machine tools have become part of my interest in bikes. I first got into machining in high school. Mills and lathes come in handy for building custom bikes. I've renewed my interest there.
Woodworking has to take a back seat. That's not to say that I'm selling my tools, far from it. You're just not going to see as much of it going on.

Anywho, here's to flour and horsepower!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Glue sniffing horsepower freakazoids...

Are you into horsepower? Sniffing glue? Mayhem? Vans? General kookiness? If you are, then you need to check out my good friend and shopmate at  The House of Heavy Horsepower. See the link to your right. If you are not into any of the above, everything I just said.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

New Lathe

Picked up a new machine yesterday. A South Bend lathe. Case of beer for payment, can't beat that, even for a basket case. Pre-1947 Going to see how deep of a restoration I can do. More to come...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Geez, it's a box...shut up

How much can a guy go on about a simple box? Well, it's winter in Wisconsin, and I don't have a life. So there.
Anywho...since I shot my mouth off about sharpening, here's a big, fat, glaring error to look at so that we all know that this beginner doesn't think he's an expert just because he has the internet at his fingertips...
I glued the shelf in backward. There's a tiny bevel that was meant to be on the backside. I spose that's what I get for doing it at 4:30 a.m. before I have my coffee. Just because I'm a morning person doesn't mean I don't need my coffee.

Sharpening rant

I just want to rant about sharpening for a minute. When I first started out in this hobby (which is about 3 years ago, so you could say I'm still in the beginner's stage), one of the first lessons I learned was the false economy of the so-called "scary sharp" method of sharpening.
(the reason for this rant is a comment someone made about having the "right" tools to do the job, and told the other person to buy more sandpaper...c'mon)
The idea is that you stick sand paper down to a flat surface, say granite or plate glass, and go through progressive grits of paper to get your edge. It sounds good, in fact it sounds great. Some woodworking stores even sell kits to get you started. Ironically, the store that markets that kit hardly caters to hand tool workers. (I won't name them, but their initials are R.O.C.K.L.E.R., a place I now refuse to shop at because of the arrogant staff that look down on beginners and anyone that isn't dropping $5k on the latest laser guided nuclear powered chop saw, seriously it's an effin' chop saw)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Oak box IV (that's 4, right?)

Well, since my cedar for the back of my box came in sooner than expected, I was able to get some more done. As of right now, the box is glued up on my bench. Only finishing the shelf remains. Let's have a look at what has been done since the last time...

The three pieces for the back cut to length. I cut them just slightly oversize, but close enough so that a few swipes on the shooting board would make 'em fit.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Veritas beading tool

Before I sound like an advertisement, this isn't a review. Just a look at filing a cutter for the Veritas Beading Tool. I just got this tool a couple of weeks ago in my box-o-goodies. I want to use it on the back panel of the oak box that I am making to add a little something. While I'm waiting on the glue to dry for the panel, I thought I would document filing a cutter.
The beading tool comes with a single point cutter and 5 blanks. If you file each end of all 6 cutters, that gives you 12 different bead profiles. I pulled out a blank, and opted for a two point cutter. Here goes...

The beading tool, with a blank acting as a place holder.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sharpening a Veritas carcass saw

The time finally came to sharpen my Veritas cross cut carcass saw. The saw is 14 tpi and, according to the LV website, has 15 degrees of rake and 15 degrees of fleam. Up until now I've only sharpened my full size vintage saws. So I was ever-so-slightly apprehensive about putting a file to this saw. However...with the help of my new file guide, things went smoothly (not mention quickly).

The patient, ready for sharpening.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oak Box III

Keeping with one operation at a time, last night I cut the dadoes to fit the shelf for my oak box. I also found out that the Spanish Cedar I want to use for the back is going to take a while come in. Either I will wait about three weeks for the cedar, or I will find another wood to make the back from.

Before the dadoes...let's back track just a bit to look at the grooves for the back. I have to use a little creative clamping in order to get the edge of the piece to hang over the side of the bench. I had my brain in auto-pilot and didn't do a good job of checking the spacing of the groove. I should have moved it in some more, as it cut into the half pins on the back of the boards. Lesson learned, moving on...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lie-Nielsen chisels

Just taking a moment to gush on about Lie-Nielsen chisels. I really like these things. A while back I got a few of their mortise chisels, and earlier this year I got a 1/4" bench chisel. Last week my new 1/2" bench chisel showed up (a 3/8" should be here today). Mind you, these aren't cheap. At $55 each, there's a reason I don't have a rack stuffed with them. My first bench chisels were Footprints...barely serviceable, with heavy handles and questionable steel. I tried a Two Cherries chisel, and no matter what I do, I can't like it. Next chisel was the new Stanley SW. The Stanley is not a bad option. They are better steel than a Footprint, the balance is good...and most importantly...I like the handle.
Too bad Stanley can't make their chisels to the standard that Lie-Nielsen does. The L-N chisel is based on the original Stanley 750. From box to cutting takes about 5 minutes. A quick couple of swipes to polish the already very flat back and hone the bevel.

The back of the chisel comes from Lie-Nielsen hand finished to 400 grit. It is FLAT. This leaves only the polishing to the user, and saves a lot of time.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Oak box II

My oak box is coming along. The case is dovetailed, and the groove has been cut to fit the back. Next up is decide the location of the shelf and cut the dadoes.
For the back, I have a piece of Spanish Cedar that I'd like to use. The problem is that it isn't big I need to get another piece.
It fits together. That's a positive sign! This picture is from before cutting the groove. The dovetails aren't perfect, but I'm not going to stress out about it. I want to finish the project, with all of the faults and learn from it. Instead of my usual routine of: make a mistake, toss the piece, and then wonder why I have a bunch of tools and nothing to show for it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Veritas file guide

Lee Valley/Veritas has put out another great tool. The new saw filing guide. A few of us were waiting for its release after hearing about it on the Sawmill Creek Forum. President, Rob Lee was kind enough to let us know the part number so we could order it by phone before it found its way to the web site.
Up until now, I have freehanded all of my saws. I never felt comfortable with file handles. They just never seemed to give me a good feel for the file. Going without a handle means that your fingers ache. My saws are all good users, but I also know that they can be better. When I saw this guide, I knew that it was exactly what I needed (wanted).
I ordered mine on Tuesday morning, and found it within a box of goodies that was waiting on the front stoop when I came home from work today (more about that box later). Upon opening the package, I was greeted by the usual high level of Lee Valley craftsmanship.
I've had a saw laying around that needed some fresh teeth, so that is my test saw. I was impressed with the first push of the file. In fact, I was so impressed, that I stopped half way through to write this!
Installed on the tip of the file, the markings for setting the rake angle are clear and easy to set with the brass screw. In this case, a rather aggressive zero rake.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oak Box

I want a small hanging box to house a few antique tools. The plan is to have an outside dimension of 12"h x 15"w. Depth will be about 3(ish) inches after I put in the back. There will be a shelf in the middle. The exact location of the shelf hasn't been determined yet, I'll take care of that later.
The idea behind this project is to take it slooooooooow. I tend to rush, that gets me frustrated, and then I walk away for a week and never pick up the project again. To remedy that, I'm only doing one operation a night. I'm concentrating on that one thing. Whether it is trimming to length, marking the joinery, or what have you. Slowing down and thinking about what I'm doing will help to stop me from re-making every mistake I've made in the past (or so I hope).
The case pieces all trimmed to length, dovetail baselines are marked out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I wish...

I wish I was as good at woodworking as baking. In the last two weeks, I've made French butter pastries, Far Breton, cheesecake (twice), sauerkraut cake, blueberry muffins, and cream cheese tarts. Let's not even start with the regular cooking (chateaubriand, anyone?).
That is a 100% crack-free almond cheesecake. For the bakers out there, we all know how hard it is to make one without even a little crack somewhere.