Friday’s Weekend Column
The Lure of Florida Starts Again

by James Glaser
September 8, 2006

Yes Florida has the ocean on one side and the Gulf on the other which gives it thousands of miles of beach front. It also has no income tax, lush vegetation, and wildlife you find no where else. But the lure of Florida is the weather.

Yes, I have just gone through a very hot and muggy summer—one that is still with us, but there are signs the summer is waning. Last April I wrote a column about how the eight months before April had been filled with only nice days, and I can see those days starting again. This next week the mornings are going to start out in the 60s and the highs will be in the 80s. Oh, I am sure we will still have some hot days, but not every day.

I don't know if you could say Florida really has a fall like up North. The days seem to all of a sudden become that perfect weather that snow birds flock down here to find. I think if you stay the summer you can appreciate the winters even more. It is like the reverse of Minnesota. Up there the winter makes you appreciate the summer. The difference is that winter in Minnesota can start in late September and last into May. That gives you four very nice months. Down here you have about four bad months and eight great ones. One thing I remember about living in Northern Minnesota, and that is that historically there has been a killing frost in every month of the year. That means in August your tomato plants could freeze. It doesn't happen that often, but it can, and it does.

Now that I finally have the A/C working in the studio, I have to start thinking about how I'll heat the place come January. Last winter there was not a day that I thought was cold, so heating the shop won't take much.

Last Friday, 1st Friday, was great. I had the studio all cleaned up, the windows installed and a computer screen with a slide show of my work. I also had the air conditioning on, and a neon open sign in the window, but no one was coming in. After a while I opened the door and put a block out there to keep it open, and people streamed in to look at what I have been doing. I don't know why, but they needed that open door to feel free to step inside. I met a lot of nice people. Tallahassee does have a lot of people interested in the arts, and the city does its best to promote anything cultural.

I went to a tool store today and like every other artist or craftsman, I have to confess to an addiction for tools. You see something new, and your mind tells you that you need that. I have been able to curb those desires lately. A couple of years ago I saw the anniversary edition of a Porta- Cable plunge router. It had both a regular router and a plunge router base in a nice big case for some fabulous price, and I knew I just had to have that router. I could envision using it for all sorts of projects. To date I have used it one time, and that was to try it out. It is great, but I have a very nice Stanley polished aluminum router that Ray Knaeble gave me, and it's kind of small and fits my hand so well. It is a little hard to set up, and it isn't as powerful as that new one, but it isn't as loud, and I am used to it.

So now when I get that urge to buy some new tool, I give it a couple of days thought time, and usually decide I don't really need it. Truth be told, I have all the tools I need, and buying supplies like sand paper, Watco oil finish, varnish, and hard wood lumber satisfies my need to spend. Today I bought some more sand paper, and I did buy a new file.

I will have to spend a few hours sharpening my wood chisels. I start out using a wet stone, but then I switch to fine grit sand paper on a flat piece of glass. That is what I bought today, 1200 and 1500 grit paper. A few years ago I read an article titled "Scary Sharp," and with that fine sand paper you can get edge of the chisel looking like a mirror.

A few years ago I cut myself in the shop with a chisel I had just sharpened. I was bleeding like a stuck pig and grabbed a towel, wrapped it around my wrist, and headed for the emergency room. The doctor looked at the wound and was impressed with how sharp the tool was that made it. He was a wood duck carver, and we made a deal. He stitched me up, and I sharpened all of his chisels and taught him how I did it.

Tool maintenance is something you don't think about unless you work with them all the time. If you buy good tools and take care of them, they will last you for years—heck decades.

With the weather getting nicer, I'll have no excuse about it being too hot, and I'll get a lot done. I have to admit I am having a ball working, and that's good.

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