The Tormek Blade Sharpening System

Posted by Steve on Sat, 04/11/2009 - 1:12pm

Shop owners love to brag about the incredible tool buys they've made on eBay, at flea markets and at estate auctions. Like my $50 Hitachi framing nailer and $125 radial arm saw.

But most of us have also made purchases we're less proud of, like the $100 "miracle corner clamping system" I bought at a tool show which turned out to be utterly useless for anything besides building the tiny box the salesman demonstrated at the show. Naturally, we don't talk much about those overpriced white elephants, which is probably why these hucksters are still in business.

Then there are those purchases that fall somewhere in the middle: useful tools with staggering price tags that don't really justify the tool's performance. When I purchased the Tormek T7 wet grinder at the International Woodworking Show in New Jersey, I was afraid I'd made just such a buy. After purchasing the optional jigs and accesories I needed for my planer and jointer blades, knives and scissors I walked out of the convention center almost $700 lighter.

Indeed, there's not much to this tool. It's basically just a slow-turning motor with a couple of wheels, a plastic bath tub and a steel frame. But it does an excellent job. Over the past four years I've taken for granted how much it's meant to always have sharp blades, chisels and knives in the shop.

Sure, experienced old timers can accomplish this manually with a sharening stone but it's a skill I don't have nor am I particularly eager to learn it with my expensive blades. There's more to it than just rubbing a blade against a block, like maintaining the precise bevel. Get this wrong on a 12" planer blade and you might as well toss the set and buy new ones.

That's how I balance -- or possibly rationalize -- the cost of the Tormek. I was spending a hundred bucks a year on new planer and jointer blades before the Tormek but I haven't bought a single set since. As an added bonus, I have scary sharp chisels, scissors and kitchen knives too.

In fact, if you've never had a knife professionally sharpened before you don't know how sharp they can be. Perhaps for liability reasons, brand new, store bought knives are usually pretty dull by comparison.

Building stairs the EZ way

Posted by Steve on Sun, 03/15/2009 - 6:36pm

Shortly after I took possession of my house, I was cleaning up the cellar one afternoon when I noticed my cat, Chopper, engrossed with something halfway up the old cellar stairs. I checked to see if he might have a moth and instead saw a pile of paint chips and wood fibers below the stringer he was pawing at. With the paint removed, I saw hundreds of white wormy looking things. Termites!

How did this happen? I'd closed on the house nine months earlier. My inspector found some evidence of an old termite infestation and, to be safe, my lawyer made the closing contingent upon an exterminator's report. The report was so terse that the inspector could have Twittered it: "Found/killed two termite colonies. No evidence of internal infestation."

Evidently this bonehead's inspection was as thorough as his report because the termites had dug a tunnel from the far foundation wall, across the ceiling through a 3" floor joist, and down the stairs. It cost me $1500 to have a licensed, BBB-certified exterminator exterminate the house. There's more to that story, but I'll digress on that some other time. What matters is that I had to replace that staircase. I was very lucky it didn't collapse on me.

The Key Food Disconnect

Posted by Steve on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:26pm

In December, your wannabe Norm Abrams (me) tried a taste of old school investigative bloggerism and reported on the troubles with the construction of the new 69th Street Key Food supermarket. The local pols and press had been reporting that Key Food was on schedule for January opening. Problem is, I wasn't seeing any work being done on the place. Then the day after Christmas while walking the dogs by 244 Bay Ridge Avenue, I saw a stop work order from the Dept of Buildings plastered on the side of the building.

Everything must have worked itself out, or one would presume so, because on Feb 10, 2009, there was a post on City Councilman, Vincent Gentile's, blog announcing the long awaited completion date for the 69th Street Key Food Supermarket.

I want to update everyone with some good news: work on the site recently resumed, and the store is expected to open in the end of March. So in just a little over a month, Bay Ridge will have a new supermarket!

Beware the Sucker Holes

Posted by Steve on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 12:43pm

No, that's not a pornographic double entendre. "Sucker hole" is a term I learned from an old flight instructor. It's a break in the clouds which beckons naive, non-instrument rated pilots to take a chance on finding clear skies through that hole only to have the clouds close in on them and leave them in zero visibility.

ISY99-iLast week I said I'd post my progress with the new Insteon home automation device, the ISY99-i. Lemme digress for a second. Say what you will about marketing droids, but when a company goes to the trouble of holding a brain jam to create a slick product name for its baby -- like "Insteon" for example -- it says that someone was paying at least a little attention to the customer. Needless to say, this wasn't done with the ISY99-i.

I've been through this so many times that I knew with 89% certainty what I was embarking on. Out of the box I saw that I was going to have problems. For one, the packing slip said that there was a DB9 serial cable. In fact, it was a cable with a DB9 on one end and an ethernet connector on the other. Useless to me, or for any other purpose I could think of. And there was no manual, just a link to a web site, where it talked about an installation disk, which also wasn't included. After a half hour of searching the site for a download I ran across a forum message saying that the ISY99-i doesn't use an installation disk.

You know, I can understand why a paper manual might be out of date, but a web site? This wasn't a good start. It only got worse from there.

For one, the device requires Java to be installed on your computer. My professional experience with Java includes countless crashed web browsers, broken web sites, locked up devices, bloated web servers and poorly written spyware. The ISY99-i didn't do much to temper my dislike for Java. But that's only after I managed to get into the software. I spent most of the afternoon trying to communicate with a dead device until a response to my "Helllp!!" message on the company's forum told me that I had to disable my anti-virus software. What?!! Does the company really expect its customers to also invest in compatible A/V software to use their product?


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