Vanilla Extract

Polish vodka with Madagascar vanilla beans. Now we wait for 18 months

Time to fix the old foundation

The fieldstone foundation’s mortar is crumbling and leaks when wet, as you can see in the pictures here. I am the two dry pictures are from the basement wall on the south side of the house.

humorous leak
south side walls with, what looks like a more modern patch
another south wall shot. on the right side, you can see a thin outer layer that is more white than the rest.

Refurbished Mid-19th Century Sailmaker’s Scissors

I picked up a rusty old pair of scissors at my woodworking guild’s weekly meeting. They had some extra pressure points for the thumb and pinky, which I presumed might help with cutting difficult material. I cleaned them up and did some research on them – thought I would share the results.


The first step was to disassemble the scissors which were held together with a brass fastener that had two holes that you could grab to loosen or tighten.

Brass fastener

I hoped to get the scissors disassembled, so I took a piece of scrap wood and put two nails in it and sawed their ends blunt. The result was a tool that lined up with the fastener.

Fabricated tool to disassemble scissors
Back of scissors with nut removed

Once disassembled, I soaked the blades in vinegar for a day and then sanded and buffed them to a smooth finish. I sharpened the steel by lapping on sandpaper against a known flat surface. I also buffed the brass fasteners to make them nice and shiny. It appears that the upper section was originally painted black but I left it as-is, with a thin coat of oil to prevent rust.


polished up and super sharp


The scissors were old and the maker’s mark is on the brass fastener but it was worn off. I researched based on some clues and determined that they were made in New Jersey in the mid 1800s by Heinisch and Wiss who had innovated blade construction by laminating hardened steel to for the cutting edge with iron for the other parts of the scissors. More information here>

Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table

I recently used some of the wood that I milled back in the summer of 2018 to make a coffee table. The design of the table was inspired by a coffee table by George Nakashima.

Nakashima’s table is more beautiful – he was a true master! His was in walnut but mine is in maple.

I have a few thoughts on the process and product:

  • this project was hard, physical work but was actually rather simple in that 4 pieces of wood were being connected together to form a piece of furniture;
  • the hard work came from the width of the board. I don’t have power tools that can process a 20″ wide board, so I planed it by hand;
  • there were moments when I struggled with my preconception that I needed to have strict measurements to guide the build. It was deeply liberating to embrace the freedom of live-edge furniture making like this. I was able to make decisions and judgements based on how I feel about the scale, dimensions and shape;
  • I used no glue in the project. Joinery was entirely done with threaded brass inserts;
  • I finished the piece with 6 coats of boiled linseed oil;
  • The table’s primary utility, for now, is to host my 10 year old daughter’s lego building activities.

Here’s a close-up of the bridle joint:

Here, I finished some rough planing in the garage:

makin’ shavins

Here, a set of handplanes were used to make the surface smooth and flat:

New Year, New Bathroom

This fall, we demolished the old tub and shower door, replacing it with a new cast iron tub, shower curtain and subway tile. Then, in December, we removed the vanity, vinyl floor and fixtures. We replaced them with cabinets that I built, new tile floor and a quartz countertop.

The cabinet doors and face frames were build with maple that was harvested from our neighborhood 2 years ago.

The Layout

The first thing that we did was define the layout using Sketchup:

A small layout with a narrow vanity. The angled countertop allows the door to open into the room.


There are a few problems with the old bathroom:

  • there are stains on the fixtures
  • the colors are awful and the walls have been discolored by condensation drips
  • there is mold and grub around the tub, especially along the shower door
  • the floor is vinyl and cracked
  • the tub is 28″ deep and really cramped
  • the closet shelves are made of oriented strand board and could be improved
  • the shower doors do not slide without serious effort


It’s nice to paint before the floor goes in.