Saturday, December 28, 2013

End table Christmas project

This is a last minute project for a Christmas present for my wife.

It started with a "stepping stone" project that my daughter did in 7th or 8th grade art class, about eight or nine years ago. It was a concrete disk with glass chips imbedded in a design she came up with of a flower and a butterfly.

It sat on the floor in my office for many years and I always thought it would somehow become a part of a project like this. It occurred to me that now might be a good time. Being sort of last minute, the design had to be simple and I think that worked out well for it. Simple is usually the best anyway, so I went with it.

I hadn't realized that the pile of Walnut I had was so clear. I wanted the most "figured" wood I could find so I was actually going through my pile looking for the gnarliest pieces I could come up with.

Here are a couple pictures that my daughter took when she was home for Christmas. I had a couple pictures too, but not as nice as these. She did a good job of catching the sunlight playing on the wood.

Custom table, built by John Huisman, walnut, knotty

Custom built walnut table, end table, John Huisman, Ely, Minnesota


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The tree...

I guess we are not one of those homes where you see the tree up right after Thanksgiving. We don't have a set time for getting the tree and putting it up... it just sort of happens somewhere along the way. ...but it always does happen.

So, this past weekend we put up a tree...

If my count is right, I believe this is the 27th Christmas tree we have cut off our land here.

We have never had to walk too far to find one. Some years were better than others. Some years trudging through knee deep snow, some years snow was not an issue. Some years the two of us with with four small children looking for just the right one, some years the two of us just going out and picking one quickly.

Many times we have ended up with what we call a "Charlie Brown" tree... something slightly less full or properly proportioned than we might like but always in the end, once the lights and decorations are on, they always look just fine.

This one was actually quite full and balanced and, despite a rather dramatic kink in the trunk, came out looking pretty straight. A little short and wide, but not bad.

We spent some time looking at artificial trees in the store this year... I think we do that every year, but this year we did it a little more... but it seems like part of the "fun" is bringing it in and setting it up and just seeing what we end up with. That's the theory anyway.

Usually my part is done after it has been cut and dragged in and set up. My wife takes it from there and I have to confess, on this particular Saturday afternoon, I was taking a nap while she did her thing...

We have a good amount of snow for a wintery Christmas this year. Feels like more of a "normal" Christmas, as far as weather goes, than it has in a few years. It came hard and was quite a shock initially, but now it is just here. The shortest day is already behind us and spring should be just around the corner... right after January, February and March... and maybe April.. and possibly a little of May.

But right now it is winter. And Christmas.

pen & ink drawing, John Huisman, Ely Minnesota, winter, snow, trees

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Grandpa's Saw...

When I started building things 28 years ago or so, I had very little in the way of tools, or money to buy them. I remember when taking a hundred dollars and buying a tool required a long discussion between my wife and I.  The first raised panel cabinet doors I ever made where on a cheap $100.00 table saw I got from sears. It's really amazing what you can do with very little, especially when you have more time than money. But that is probably the topic for another day...

One of the tools I had in those early days was a Craftsman circular saw that my wife's Grandpa gave me. He was still water skiing at 80 years old but I think he felt I might make better use of this tool than he would at this point in our lives. I think he thought I was a decent enough kid to be marrying his granddaughter... I regularly attended a Catholic church and I built stuff... that's probably about as good as he could have hoped for... Except for maybe a guy who could afford to buy his own tools...

I used this for many years. It was a simple saw, a wing nut for the depth adjustment and another knob for the angle adjustment... Very little plastic. It was heavy, to be sure, but solid and, except for the repair of a severed electrical cord occasionally and a new blade, it was as dependable a tool as a guy could ever need.

Eventually it got dropped a few too many times and the base was no longer flat and square with the blade. I replaced it with a Porter Cable but I know if I needed this saw, I could dig it out of the shed and it would still run strong as the day it was built.

...Stuff that works...

It seems odd drawing machinery, but often the light and shadows make for an interesting story.

John Huisman, pencil drawing
I say "circular saw" but we all know them as "Skillsaws". "Skill" being another
brand of saw, I thought it might be inappropriate to say "Craftsman Skillsaw".

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blue sky and cold...

Someone was telling me the other day that I need to post some shots of these projects from the lake side rather than the driveway side. Once I got over the shock of realizing that there is actually someone who might occasionally read my blog or parts of it, I realized that that is true. I generally think about taking photos as I am getting in my truck to leave and so they become more of an afterthought. But, like I say, I never thought it really mattered, I am just trying to fill some space in a weekly blog and talking about the weather gets old...

So, yesterday I realized another reason I don't take many pictures from the "front" or lakeside, (there is often confusion about what the "front" of a lake cabin is. On most homes the entry side is the front, but, to me, the lakeside of a lakehome is the "front" and the entry side is usually the back).

...anyway, here are a couple shots, the best I could get from the front. It is a walkout basement and starts sloping to the lake from there. If you try to get far enough to get a decent look at the place, there are too many trees to even see it, but at this distance, the upward angle makes it hard to see the cabin very well at all. In this case I was trudging through the 14" of new snow, stumbling and slipping around...
timber, frame, lake, house, ely mn, huismanconcepts
Once again, the incredible blue sky that typifies so many of the pictures I take around Ely, (possibly because I don't venture out much in the inclement weather).

Minnesota, blue sky, huisman, custom home.

Steffes boiler, ely mn, custom home by John  Huisman
For the more technical minded, here is the core of the heating system, a Steffes "off-peak" electric boiler in the basement. It is piped now to the hydronic tubing in the basement floor slab and will later be piped to the tubing that will be laid in the main floor for in-floor heating throughout.

As I was implied earlier, over the course of this past week winter came hard and fast. I don't know what the official total was in snow accumulation but I would think 14-16"... not as much as Duluth or the North Shore, but still... and it wasn't a big dump, it just persisted for about three days steady. Just snow and gray windy days. I took the snow-blower out every day for three days just to try to keep the road coming up our hill passable but after you put the blower away and turn around there was already 2 more inches...
snowfall, december 2013, Ely area, Minnesota, huisman
As always, after a snowfall like that, the sky clears and the temps plummet.  We had a low this morning of -18 degrees and a high today, (12/7), of about 6 below zero. But at least that constant accumulation of sugary powder has stopped for the time being. Everything now is hard and crunchy.

Burntside lake froze over on Thanksgiving night. I was out near the lake on Friday late afternoon as the sun was setting and took these pictures. It was about 6 below and dropping at that time.
Burntside lake, december 2103, Ely, Minnesota

Burntside lake, december 2103, Ely, Minnesota, winter,