Thursday, February 29, 2024

From The Archives #9 - PhD by Numbers

Originally published 2004-11-16

Doctor of Philosophy by numbers:

Time: 1088 days or 2 years, 357 days; (1st Oct 2001 – 22nd Sept 2004); (365 + 366 + 365 – 8).


Published Thesis....  

214 pages

2,086 paragraphs

49,477 words

255,698 characters

49,396 spaces 

Writing Up.....

Took 73 days at an average 14 hours per day

Created a pile of scrap A4 paper 82 cm tall (ca. 32 inches)

Listened to 981 hours of Radio 5

Consumed while writing..... 

142 ham rolls

71 packets of crisps

132 chocolate brownies

34 chunky Kit Kats

35 blue Bountys

108 liters of Diet Coke

367 tea bags

84 pints of milk

7 bags of sugar

3 jars of Nescafe Gold Blend

And actually lost weight, due to such severe stress...



64 copies of The Guardian

9 copies of The Observer

8 copies of The News of the World

A few books on chemistry (!)



Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dining Room Cabinets & Bookcase Part 3

The dining room cabinets have been on hiatus for a few weeks while I've been sprucing up the workshop and so on. At this point, the cabinet box is almost ready for face frames and doors....but not quite.

The first order of business was to sand off some glue-related mess from inside the cabinets. This was a tedious process, and one of the reasons why I have not been chomping at the bit to get back to working on this project.

The next step was to drill the holes for the shelf pins. I've done this before with a jig made out of peg board, but it was much easier with the Kreg shelf pin jig.

Next up: the face frame. I'm making the face frame from black walnut which is a bit less than 1.5" x 3/4" after jointing and planing. I cut the stiles (verticals) first and then clamped them both in the exact position. The rails (horizontals) were then cut precisely to be a tight fit between the stiles.

I had to assemble the frame on top of the table saw because my work bench is not big enough. 

I'm using glue and pocket hole screws to make the connections:

Test fitted the frame and used it as a guide to cut the dividing pieces to length.

Returned to the table saw and installed the three (3) dividers. I cut spacer blocks so that the four (4) openings between the dividers will be identical. 

Face frame assembly complete!

Made some cauls from 3"x 3/4" pine. A caul is a slightly curved board which can be used to apply clamping pressure in otherwise inaccessible areas. The curve is made either with careful planing, or more quickly, by installing layers of tape of ever-decreasing length. 

Glue-up in progress:

This is the next day after clamp removal, rough sanding and re-righting:

Started work on the doors....the four door panels were cut to the final width plus about an inch that will be trimmed later, and to the precise final length (minus 0.5").

Yep, minus 0.5", because this will be made up by two 0.25" wide strips of walnut. Strips just like the ones below, which were cut to 5/16" on the table saw and then planed down.

The walnut trim/edge banding was attached with glue and a couple of 23 ga. pin nails to prevent movement, and then clamped overnight:

While I was waiting for the glue to set up, I cut the eight moveable shelves to the final width and test fitted them. The shelves are cut 0.25" short so that I can add walnut trim to the front-facing edges:

The next day (in DIY time) I took the doors back over to the bench and sanded the edge banding flush with the plywood - this has to be done very carefully because I do not want to sand through the veneer.

The doors were then trimmed to their final width and the walnut banding was added to the long sides. The banding was cut to the precise length in advance.

Similar banding was added to the front-facing edges of the shelves:

This is a preview of how the shelves will look installed. This is before sanding and finishing:

I must have mentioned hundreds of times in this blog that I don't enjoy sanding....who does? But it has to be done, so I spent several hours getting the edge trim flush with the panels.

Which gave four very smooth cabinet doors...

...and eight shelves.

Stay tooned for the assembly!

Saturday, February 17, 2024

From The Archives #8 - The White Stripes

Originally published 2005-12-10

The White Stripes

Venue: Bill Graham Civic Center, Grove St, San Francisco

Date: Dec 9, 2005

Venue Vibe: a bit like a truncated Wembley arena, capacity  ca. 8000.

The Low-down: The outrageously early start time for Live 105's Not So Silent Night, San Francisco’s annual end-of-term rock bash, and the chemistry Christmas party being on the same evening combined to force our absence through Hot Hot Heat and Autolux.  What’s more, the 20 or so minutes we spent in the beer line cost us not just forty dollars for a few cups of warm Bud (!) but also the chance to see Coheed & Cambria in the flesh, our appreciation of their set being restricted to what we could hear through the auditorium wall.  Still, at least we got to check out Death Cab for Cutie who sat firmly on the fence between indie rock and pop rock, a genre once defined by the Stone Roses or more recently the Stereophonics second album. 

And so to this year’s headliners, the White Stripes.  After five solid albums, Jack White and his bandmate Meg have proved to be much more than the novelty act they first appeared.  In fact, one is often moved to ponder whether the quantity of noise the duo produce between them represents some kind of world record.  Add this to the catchy choruses of hits like “Hotel Yorba” and “Jolene” and they seem to have everything.  The trouble is, that one never really believes the pair are giving it their all in the live setting; instead they give the impression of a band holding something back for the second show.  

What’s more, while Jack’s musical talent and ability is not in doubt, Meg is never going to be confused with Keith Moon, or even Ringo Starr come to think of it; to paraphrase John Lennon, one gets the impression that Meg is not even the best drummer in the White Stripes.  She does however have exceptionally big tits.  When the band left the stage in low-key fashion after a mere 25 minutes, we assumed either a rift, or a technical difficulty was the cause, but no: after a lengthy hiatus they returned for a few more songs, and that was it, lights on and all done.  A very short show from a band I will continue to listen to, but can live without seeing live in the future.

Review by Westoid

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Uncle Herbert

To say that the tool chest post provoked an outpouring of family nostalgia would be an exaggeration, but it did lead to the uncovering of some interesting new information which is worth adding to the story. 

First, a bit more background: Uncle Herbert was my Dad's uncle, and so strictly he was my great uncle, but he was never referred to as that by me or anyone else. My Dad's Mother, and my Grandmother, Irene, or "Reeny" as my Grandfather called her, was the second eldest of four siblings:

Blanche -  July 13, 1909 – June 1969 (59).

Irene - December 10, 1910 - February 3, 1986 (76).

Herbert - May 24, 1913 - July 23, 2005 (92)

Harold - March 1915 – late 1998 (83).

Uncle Herbert lived at 131 Saville Road in Castleford, the family home, all his life. My father also lived there for at least the first three years of his life, though his precise date of departure is the subject of some conjecture. 

131 Saville Road was rented from a private landlord until sometime in the 1970s when Herbert purchased the house. Originally it had three (3) bedrooms upstairs, two (2) reception rooms downstairs - one of which was hardly ever used - and a kitchen at the rear. The tiny bathroom, with just a standalone tub, was beyond the kitchen. The toilet was located at the very rear of the building and could only be accessed from the backyard. There was no sink outside of the kitchen. After Herbert bought the property one of the bedrooms was converted into an upstairs bathroom. Visitors however were still encouraged to use the outside toilet which typically required negotiating a pathway around Herbert's bicycle.

131 Saville Road, 2023.

131 Saville Road from the rear, 2023. 

Visits to the house in my day would start with either my grandfather or my father parking the car in the perpendicular and aptly named Cross Street, and entering the property via the back alley. It was the fourth house from Cross Street and had a wood panel back gate that was painted a horrible green color in the late 70s. Inside the gate was the air raid shelter, the outside toilet, a tiny yard and then the back door which opened into the kitchen. The only time I ever entered the house through the front door was in about 2002 when I helped my father move a twin bed into the property.

From the time when I first visited the house until Herbert passed away in 2005, the d├ęcor was stuck in the 1970s. For example all the interior doors had been covered with plastic faux woodgrain panels. But the rest of it was an odd mix of ancient and modern. The kitchen stove looked like it came out of the ark, and had to be lit with a match every time it was used; whenever I watched Herbert do this sparks would fall from the match and land on the linoleum...but he was also the first person I knew that had a microwave oven. 

Herbert was actually the most forward thinking relative or friend I can think of. He bought my Dad a gas-powered camping stove back in the 50s when everyone else was still cooking over unreliable kerosene-fired primus stoves. He also had one of the first VCR's under his tellybox, long before they became common, and even longer before we had one in our house. Having said that, the only thing I can remember Herbert watching on the TV was horse racing. 

Herbert was retired by the time I knew him. He spent his working life as a brickies' laborer but during WW2 he served in the Army in Belgium, where he a batman to a senior officer. A batman was essentially a personal servant and was seen as a desirable position since the appointee was exempted from more onerous duties and often received better rations and other favors from his officer. The post was abolished after the war.

In the late 70's/early 80s Herbert had an allotment or community garden adjacent to the parking lot at what is now the Carlton Lanes shopping center. It was close enough to Saville Road that he could ride back and forth on his bicycle. He was always trying to give away produce to my Mum, typically garlic or sprouts. One of his neighbors at the allotment was referred to as "Tut Pole" on account of being of Polish origin. Nobody actually knew what his proper name was.

Herbert used to come to my Grandma's house in Ferry Fryston once a week for lunch. I think it was on Fridays. At other times, my Grandparents would bring fish and chips over to Herbert's house. I know this because I was there on one occasion. I think it's fair to say that Herbert's pantry was not really stocked to my liking. I didn't want a cup of tea with my fish and chips, and there was not much else on offer; I was forced to settle for some milk in a china cup that came with a saucer. When I was done with my food I asked my Grandma what was for dessert, or "afters" as we used to call it. "Oh" she replied, "Uncle Herbert dunt bother wit afters." I was crushed. To cheer me up, Grandma took me next door to check on Herbert's then very elderly neighbor Mrs Able. I think she was about 98 at the time and if not she certainly looked it.

Uncle Herbert was keen on sport - he was a very good lawn bowler and a decent snooker player. He had a stack of trophies for snooker and billiards, most of which came from competitions at Castleford Liberal Club. Somehow or other he played a frame against Joe Johnson the 1986 Snooker World Champion at Smawthorne Lane WMC in Castleford in January 1988.

Herbert with Joe Johnson following his 37-64 defeat.

It turns out that the tool chest which spawned this article was a 21st birthday gift to Herbert from his family. This makes sense because he would have turned 21 in 1934 and the tool chest was advertised in Practical Mechanics at that time. He used to keep the tool chest on the top shelf in the downstairs closet. I think he'd be happy to know that some of his tools are still being used almost ninety (90) years after they were purchased.

Of Herbert's siblings, the oldest was Blanche, my father's favorite Auntie - and that's saying something because he had almost a dozen to pick from. Blanche and her husband Harold Spawforth lived at 123 Saville Road in the 40's and 50's, just a few doors along from Herbert and the rest of the family. While researching this article we have discovered that Harold played six (6) times for Castleford RLFC /Castleford Tigers between 1930-1932. This was mentioned just once to my father, so not exactly something Harold dined out on. Auntie Blanche sadly passed away before I was born.

The youngest of the four was my father's Uncle Harold who married Olive Muscroft in 1938 and moved out to the wilds of Doncaster. The family used to call him "the young 'un." The geographical separation of twenty (20) miles from the olde homestead meant I didn't see much of them. I mainly remember Auntie Olive for kitting me jumpers at Christmas. When Uncle Harold passed away he left me a thousand pounds in his will. I was a poverty stricken second year undergraduate at the time and that money meant I could buy my first computer. My Dad said that Harold wanted to leave money to people that it would make a real difference to, and he achieved that.

My Grandma deserves her own piece, which I will link to when it eventually appears.

Friday, February 9, 2024

An update on the deck

As I have mentioned in several posts, it has been railing a LOT lately, and may well continue to do so until April...! This makes it impossible to work on the deck...

And. if that wasn't bad enough, the bit of the deck that we have "partially" installed leaks like a sieve into the garage. It started off with a few blistered sections of the ceiling...

And progressed to this....

At the time of writing, mold is growing on parts of the ceiling and a lot of the left side wall:

Stay tuned for further developments....

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

More workshop refinements

At the time of writing, it is STILL raining. We have had the odd nice day here and there, but not anywhere near enough to get back to the deck project. The only positive is all the work I've but able to do in the 'shop that I normally would not have time for. I'm still working my way through the plywood I salvaged from the deck. When I left off, I had finished the window wall in the shop and built my clamp rack. But there was another area that needed attention - the wall behind the furnace and where I store some of my guitars and a whole load of other stuff has never been finished. This is how it looks with all that gear removed:

This is the same area after an number of hours work installing more of the salvaged plywood. Unfortunately my Dad was not around to remove the nails this time...

I had to work my way through a lot of small pieces towards the end:

When I "plywood-ed" the other wall I thought about getting the paint out, and decided....maybe in the future. This time though I was a bit more motivated. I can't imagine moving all the junk out off the way just to paint, and I have time, so I got it done:

I also installed a light in this area which has a pull cord so will only be "on" when it is actually needed rather than coming on with all the other shop lights.

Filled back up with "junk"

Went back and did the other wall while I was at it....

The cinder block wall at the front of the shop was painted white a couple of years ago, so that just left this area:

So I did that as's worth mentioning that this is primer/stain blocker and I put on two (2) coats for pretty much uniform coverage. In the future I may paint the shop an actual color, we'll see...

I put up another piece of peg board above the grinding wheels and metal work vice. I'm going to move some of the tools I use over here away from the woodwork bench (which is all of five feet away...)

One other quick thing I did was install an extractor fan in the table saw room:

I used a leftover bit of ducting from the clothes dryer to route the fan to the exterior. This area can become damp in the winter, so I want to keep the air moving around and (hopefully) prevent mold/mildew formation. I'm running the fan on a timer with a 4 hours on/4 hours off cycle. This will be a cheap solution if it works.