Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: The Shadow of His Wings

The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM.

I just finished this book a few days ago, and have to say it was a very interesting read. One of the things that really struck me was seeing WWII from such a different perspective then I'm used to. There are many interesting situations that transpire as we follow Fr. Goldmann through his journey as a soldier and priest.

The main theme that is prevalent throughout the book is the power of prayer. The prayers that were offered in assuring Fr. Goldmann would become a priest. And the prayers that saved his life in numerous situations when he would clash with the Nazis'.

What may be surprising is the nearly total lack of discussion on the concentration camps, which always seems to be a central theme when discussing WWII. This may be in part because Fr. Goldmann's travels did not require him to encounter them. His duties took him to France, Russia, Italy, and Morocco. During the entire war, he did not once hurt another person, and became a medic, thereby helping many on the battlefield. Both physically and spiritually.

One of the more surprising tales is how he and a group of seminarians became SS officers. Their belief in God and adherence to a strict honor code was actually viewed as desirable to the powers that be. Later on however, they were targeted as traitors for their beliefs.

The book concludes with Fr. Goldmann's missionary efforts in Japan, which were quite the accomplishment as well.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why I Work Wood

How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
He'd chuck what wood a wood chuck could chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood.

I've always liked that little rhyme. But, onto the real reason for this post. Why do I work with wood. The reasons are many, and looking back in time, they are a lot different then I initially thought. Let me start with the reason I went full 'bore' into woodworking.

The event that drove me into eventually sinking investing thousands of dollars on tools was when we needed to update the beds we had for our oldest two boys. As all good consumer driven people do, my wife and I went shopping! And so, we went looking around at the various furniture stores, trying to find a set of bunk beds that appealed to us. What ensued was what essentially ended up being an exercise in futility. Maybe we had too high of expectations, or maybe we'd been conditioned to expect cheap prices for decent quality, or maybe it was something else. What we felt we were finding were overpriced pieces of shoddily built things passed off as furniture. We even tried going to an "Oak" furniture store, thinking maybe at least the structural construction would be better. The prices were even more outrageous, and there were no bunk beds to be found. So, given the can-do spirit of my upbringing, I decided to build my own. I purchased a contractor table saw, benchtop drill press, benchtop jointer, and a few router bits. With tools and a set of plans in tow, I went forward with building the beds.

This is where the looking back says my interest started earlier than this point, as I already had a few tools such as a router and other miscellaneous tools. But this project spawned a much more focused thought process. I had it in my head to never walk into a furniture store again. So, far, I've been able to completely avoid them.

One of the things I learned from that first major project is to never buy hardwood from a box store (Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, etc). Granted, the wood was fine to work with, and I probably saved a lot of time as I didn't have to mill much of it, but my goodness was it expensive. I think I spent around $800 on the lumber alone. I think I've been able to build similar beds for half that cost by milling lumber purchased from a local sawmill. But, that point doesn't really fit into this narrative. Oh well, moving on.

When I completed those beds, I have to say I was quite pleased with myself. They were sturdy, they looked great, and I couldn't help but think that for around $1500 (tools and materials) I had created two beds that would sell at a furniture store for thousands of dollars each. Although I've also come to realize that I'm using time in building furniture, so the 'savings' are somewhat debatable.

That project started a string of projects that never cease to end, as well as a spending spree on tools. I might be able to count up all the beds I've made, but I really haven't tried to keep track anymore. In fact at this time, I have three more beds I really need to get done soon. I've made a dining room table to fit our family. Numerous cabinets and shelves. Night stands, knick knacks, and quite a few toy swords and other miscellaneous toys for the boys to play with.

When I was thinking of writing this post, those beds were what I thought drove me to woodworking. They definitely catapulted the time and money invested, but I think the desire was from much further back, and from much deeper within. Looking back, I think I started down this path much earlier.

When our first son was born, I had the urge to build something for him. So, with some pre-cut pine boards, a drill, circular saw, and a router, I put together a changing table. Currently it is being used as the base for a desk for our boys.

In college, I designed and built my loft. The lumber I used went through a few transformations depending on the location and type of bed. But, between studying, chasing girls, working, and chasing girls, there wasn't much time for building stuff.

And growing up, I always seemed to be wanting to build something. A playhouse using the lumber laying around the farm. A tree house. A go-cart. With ample tools, materials, and time available during the summer, that is usually what I tried to do. Most of my creations only got half built. Most were pretty ugly. But I definitely learned how to appreciate doing something yourself. It has been very hard over the years to realize that I can indeed do anything I want, but I don't have the time to do it all. I have to be choosy and prioritize.

I'm guessing that this drive to build things was what led me to engineering. And for a while it used to surprise me at how many engineers that I work with are also woodworkers. Not so much anymore though. We engineers need to build things, and the environment for engineers at Rockwell Collins where I work is more about paperwork than design. Woodworking provides that outlet to build and create for us desk jockeys.

This has been more of a philosophical history lesson then anything else. Therapeutic in some ways. Maybe that is the point of this blog altogether.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Few Recently Completed Projects

Here are a few projects I've completed lately that I have a pictures of. Enjoy!

iPad Holder
iPad Holder
This project was completed for St Joseph Catholic School, where my kids attend. The school has been purchasing a lot of new computer equipment, and was in need of a place to hold a number of new iPads when charging. The resulting cabinet holds 16 iPads, and is constructed from 3/4 inch oak plywood, reclaimed oak flooring for the trim and edging, and 1/4 inch hardboard dividers. The piece was finished with a wipe-on polyurethane (picture is of the unfinished version).
Family Cross

Family Cross
As part of Catholic Schools Week last month, families were invited to share family crosses. My wife came up with the basic design (the puzzle pieces), and then I built it using scrap chunks of wood. Good thing I hardly throw out any wood! The backer is piece of 3/4 inch oak plywood, and the various puzzle pieces of the cross are made from purple heart, cherry, walnut, spalted maple, leopoardwood, and red oak. A wipe-on polyurethane was used to finish the project.

We put together the following as an explanation of the cross:
The Perreault Family Cross:
We are 8 individual pieces to a puzzle. Put together to form a family. Working together to follow God's path for us: to show His love to all we meet.

Handheld Crosses
Handheld Crosses
These handhold-able crosses are for a Lenten project one our boys is going to do. The request was put out by the teacher for small crosses, and of course my wife volunteered my services! They are simple lap-type joint construction, about 3 inches high, and about 2 inches wide. The wood used was reclaimed oak flooring.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Revisiting an Old Deep Dish

While planning out our meals for last week, I had the idea to make something I haven't had since college: meat pie. And so, I went about planning what I wanted to put into the pie. Well, the first thought that came to mind was to make it a bacon cheeseburger meat pie. Because everything is better with bacon! Just for the record, my meat pie is just that, a meat pie. No vegetables like a pot pie, no potato covering like shepherds pie, and made with ground meat unlike a berry/nut mixture in mincemeat pie. So, over the weekend, I was able to do a little cooking and make my meat pie.

Saturday afternoon, I began by browning the elk burger with chopped onions, mixing in an assortment of spices: salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Next I added the turkey bacon we cooked up the night before when we made homemade pizza (my pizza will be a blog entry another day). While I don't mind turkey bacon, it is definitely not the wonder food that cured pork belly is. So, chalk up turkey bacon as mistake number one. I finished cooking up the filling, and let it cool a bit. When I was ready to fill the pie, I added some eggs to act as a binding agent.

After cooking up the filling, I made the crust. My standard pie crust (yet another blog entry) works great in this application, and this time was no exception. Even got to make a few pieces of 'crust', or 'makins' (I think) as my mother calls them. Essentially the leftover crust dough rolled out, cut up, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and baked. Yum! I used to make batches of this in college as my main meal. It was cheap and delicious! Not very healthy though.

So, I rolled out my bottom crust, put it in the pie plate, and started filling it. And filled it some more. Then filled it some more. This was mistake number two. Too much meat filling. The end result was an overly deep pie. After filling the pie, I contemplated the cheese actually going into the concoction. Ultimately, I did not put cheese in. Mistake number three. I think a bit of cheddar would have been really good. But as I was making the pie, for some reason I had a hard time reconciling the taste of dairy with my crust. Oh well, live and learn. On went the top crust, and into the oven!

So, the pie came out, and the boys were quite excited to see what their Dad came up with this time. Especially since they were having 'dessert' for supper! They all love my apple pie, so I suppose they all figured this pie should be great too! Well, the result was definitely edible, but not my best creation.

For starters, the overly thick pie was very filling. None of the boys were able to finish a whole piece. And it was pretty dry too. Guess that happens when you use a lean protein like elk meat. So, I may have to look into making a sauce to go in the pie, maybe a thick brown gravy. But, the boys did say they liked it, so it may be something to keep working on and make again!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Start of Another Activity I Have No Time For

Blogging. Seems like that is the thing to do these days. Well, I'm not blogging here to make money, and I have no aspirations to be famous online. My real purpose is to document the things I've done in my shop, so that family and friends across the country/world can see what I've created. Of course, I may throw in a few other topics as well. No need to create more than one blog!

And so, the name of this post implies that this is yet another activity to add to the multitude of things on my list of things to do. Hopefully, I can do these postings quickly, so it is not a complete time sucking activity. But knowing me, I'll spend far too much time on it.

Anyways, for those who actually find this blog post, and the follow on posts, enjoy. If you feel inspired by what I write, let me know!

I have plenty of past projects that I can highlight and document, so that is probably where I will start. And I'll probably start at the beginning of my journey. Of course, that may go back too many years...

Till next time!