May 20, 2007

Incidental National TV Shade Viewing!

On Friday night, I got a call from a friend: “Turn on ABC right this second!” So I did, and there was an interview with a celebrity,..., and one of my table lamps was prominently displayed in the background. This was World News Tonight with Charles Gibson, and they were showing a 5 minute segment on their Person of the Week, Paul Simon. The lamp shows up maybe 3 or 4 times.

It was a nice ego stroke for me, even though probably hardly anyone else noticed. Still, if you are curious, you can check it out on this link: -- it starts with a short advertisement that cannot be avoided, but the piece is quite interesting. I have no idea how long ABC keeps this link alive, so eventually it may expire.

Back-Saving System Installed in Shop

A few weeks ago, I had severe back spasms. I have had them before, but this was much worse. Probably the cause was my own failure to do as much stretching as I normally do. Anyway, it scared me a bit, and I resolved to figure out some ways to make my work a little easier on my back, and therefore hopefully to prolong my career as a heavy-duty woodturner.

My good friend Kevin Plunkett is a fantastic jeweler, but he was originally trained as a mechanical engineer, and has all sorts of metal welding and cutting tools. More importantly, he is ingenious at figuring out gadgets and systems to solve unusual problems. Best of all, he is the kind of person who jumps in with both feet to help! A friend indeed!!!

What we decided on is an electric winch for lifting the heavy Aspen logs from the floor up to the lathe level, and a trolley that moves the winch along an I-beam so that it can be positioned exactly as it is engaged by the two ends of the lathe. Maybe that sounds simple, but it was important to figure out how to hold it up to the ceiling in a totally safe way. In the end, the weight of the system and the log are suspended from a total of 9 roof trusses.

Two unintended benefits arose from the installation of the winch system. First it also allows me to lift the lathe bed extension in to place. The extension is used only occasionally, when I make floor lamps bases, but the thing is probably 300 pounds and very awkward. Now I will create a wheel system for moving it along the floor, and the winch will lift it in to place. Hooray!

But the more subtle and interesting benefit of the winch is the total freedom it has given me about when I start the work of making a shade. In the past, I could only begin making a shade when Kathy or Tom were around to help me lift and position the heavy Aspen logs chunk, some of which approach 200 pounds. They both have busy lives of their own, and Tom is off to college next year...., so the process of “logging on” was something that needed to be planned. Now with the winch and trolley system, I can begin work on a log whenever I want. That may not seem like much, but in reality it has made me more productive. Late in the afternoon, when my muscles are warmed up and I happen to have some free time, I can put a piece on the lathe and get some of the initial work started. Maybe I even do that with 3 pieces, one after the other. The most heavy duty aspect is done when my body is best able to absorb the jackhammer vibration.

Kevin is now building me a system for moving the logs from my outside chain sawing yard to the floor near the lathe, and a related system for grabbing the log with the winch, both of which will provide for less physical stress. So.... from the excruciating pain of the spasms in my back have come some real and innovative solutions. All thanks to Kevin. He has my deep gratitude for the assistance and the dedication.