Wood Rack 2.0

I honestly didn't think I would be doing any significant projects in the shop/garage this soon. I finished up the Xmas projects and found a home for the new drill press and thought my next project would be the workbench I'm planning on building this Spring. But...

The other night, as we were engrossed in The Hobbit before bedtime we heard a huge crash. I went to investigate and found my plywood rack had given up and everything had come crashing down. Admittedly, it was a terrible design, poorly built, and overloaded. I should have known better. Thankfully everything fell straight down between the wall and Erin's car so nothing important was damaged.

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Clearly a new design was in order. I found a good one on The Wood Whisperer that I could easily modify to work with the existing French cleat. The plans are available for free there on his site.

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I ended up cutting most of the parts with my favorite hand saw because most were too long for the band saw and I don't like using the circular saw if I can avoid it – too much dust and noise.

I assembled it all together with regular Titebond and screws. You can sort of see from the pics above that it's basically a t-joint and an i-beam attached together. It is overkill for the amount of weight they will be holding – especially since the weight is distributed over three of them and the cleat is screwed into three studs with decking screws – but overengineering is exactly what prevents the failure I had with the last one.

Christmas Projects

Now that it's after Christmas and all of my gifts have been given out I can finally post some pics of what I've been working on.

The main project, and the one that was actually the easiest, was a longboard for Beatrix. It's cut out of a piece of 3/4 inch baltic birch. I basically just found a template online, printed it and stuck it to the board, and did a rough cut with the band saw. Then I sanded it to final dimension and rounded the edges on the router table. After that it was just finish sanding and painting. And then installing the trucks and wheels and applying some grip tape.

Beatrix has already tested the board in the neighborhood and gotten it scratched up, which is pretty awesome in my book.

The rest of the projects were small in scale but a lot more complicated than the skateboard.

I glued together layers of walnut and cherry and cut them into some bandsaw boxes. The more rectangular one – on the right in the photo – was for Erin and it was way easier to cut and sand than the others. The owls, one for Bea and one for my mother-in-law, were moderately difficult to cut and sand. The elephant, for my mom, was a nightmare all around. All of those tight curves made everything so much more difficult. After the boxes were cut out, and the drawers cut out and glued up (and small cherry pulls glued on), I sanded them all to 400 grit and applied danish oil to bring out the grain. For a first attempt they're ok but I can see every single flaw and mistake in them. At the very least I learned a lot about the process.

The other two items are razor stands. The one on the left is make out of teak and it was for my brother, Randy. The other one is made of wenge and I gave it to my dad. For those I used veneer rather than regular wood stock and glued the layers together to get the thickness and, for the upper part, the curve I wanted. Parchment paper was my best friend for that. After glueing up the layers I applied templates, cut them out, sanded to final dimension and then – learning from the bandsaw boxes – did my finish sanding before glueing the pieces of the stands together. Then it was a pretty simple matter of glueing the stands to the bases and finishing with some touch up sanding and a couple of coats of spray laquer.

These projects took me a ton of time to complete because I don't really have a proper workspace. I'm going to take care of that soon, though, because my next big project is a workbench and tool storage in my garage.

Crime Dramas

I really enjoy British crime dramas. They are better than the vast majority of American crime shows in just about every way. First, the seasons run two to six episodes, generally, and tell a complete story. There may be a "monster of the week" (hat tip to Mr. Fish) but there is almost always an overarching story line that drives the series. And a really successful show might run two or three seasons. None of this CSI bullcrap. Second, the acting is really good. These shows almost exclusively use trained, professional actors. Looking through the IMDb pages for the actors is like browsing a list of British universities with drama programs. The point is, these shows are worth watching and thanks to Netflix and Hulu we can.

Here are some of my favorites.

Broadchurch

Broadchurch is first on this list alphabetically and may be my favorite of the genre. It stars two of my favorite actors, David Tennant and Olivia Colman. Season one is about the investigation into the death of a young boy in the town of Broadchurch and season two deals with the trial of the suspected murderer of the boy and goes further into the backstory of David Tennant's character by re-opening the case that has been haunting him throughout. Don't be fooled into watching the American remake, Gracepoint, even though David Tennant (sort-of) reprises the role. He speaks in a terrible American accent and the show is terrible in comparison to the original.

The Fall

The Fall is a dark, brooding show following a Detective Superintendent hunting a serial killer in Northern Ireland. Gillian Anderson – yes, that Gillian Anderson – is the DS brought in to work the case after the local police reach a dead end and Jamie Dornan – a.k.a. Christian Grey – is the killer. It's a great show with lots of intrigue with many great actors with interweaving storylines. They've done three seasons but I've only seen the first two. Hopefully we'll get season three here in the States soon.

Happy Valley

Happy Valley is a great example of fine, British actors doing great work. Seriously. Sarah Lancashire's portrayal of police sergeant Catherine Cawood is amazing. And her sister is played by Siobhan Finneran, who Mr. Fish will no doubt recognize as O'Brien from Downton Abbey. Not to take anything away from the story in this show, which is great, but Happy Valley's real strength is in the performances from the actors. There are two seasons out and there have been preliminary talks about filming a third.

Hinterland

Hinterland is the English-language version of a show produced in Wales, Y Gwyll, which translates to "The Dusk". This was part of a BBC initiative to have more Welsh shows, so they filmed it in both languages concurrently. Most of the cast and crew are also Welsh, obviously. If you're looking for a dark, moody, contemplative show this is the one for you. There are lots of shots of people being still and thinking. But the atmosphere and the cinematography really shine here. It's a beautifully shot series. There are two seasons.

Luther

Luther is so good a show it almost deserves its own post. It's about DCI John Luther, a brilliant detective with lots of personal problems and demons haunting him (not literal demons). John Luther is played by Idris Elba at his Idris Elba-est. He's excellent. Much of the series he's pursuing a psychopathic murder played by Ruth Wilson who is also excellent in this series. There are three full-length seasons and a shortened fourth, which I didn't think lived up to the first three. But Luther is a worthwhile watch for any fan of good tv.

Prime Suspect

Helen Mirren plays DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect and, as you would expect from Dame Helen Mirren, she's excellent. Tennison is a driven detective in a male-dominated environment trying to solve a series of brutal murders. For some reason I haven't seen all of this one but there are seven mini-series of two episodes each - except season four which has three – and I plan on restarting and seeing all of them soon. Bonus: Ralph Fiennes is in season one in one of his first acting roles.

River

I don't want to ruin the excellent moment in the first few minutes of River so I'm not going to tell you too much about it. It's about John River, played superbly by Stellan Skarsgård, a Luther-esque detective whose brilliant mind is offset by his internal demons. Specifically, River is haunted by the murder victims he couldn't save. There is one season of six episodes so it's very binge-watchable.

Southcliffe

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Southcliffe is the story of a series of shootings told from various perspectives and in a non-linear fashion. It is very good, but may be a little weird on first viewing. Rory Kinnear and Eddie Marsan (two of my favorites) have prominent roles and Sean Harris (who plays the shooter) won a BAFTA for his performance. There are four episodes so you can knock this one out in one long evening.

Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake is an outlier in this list. It's set in New Zealand and stars an American. The series was co-created, co-written, and co-directed by Jane Campion (she wrote, produced, and directed the film, The Piano). Elizabeth Moss, who is a much better actor than I think most people give her credit for, plays Detective Robin Griffin. She's searching for a missing school girl who is also pregnant.

Wallander

There are two different Wallander series, both based on the series of novels by Henning Mankell, one Swedish and one British. I'm sure the Swedish one is great but I've only seen the UK one. It stars Kenneth Branagh – and he's excellent, as you would expect – but you'll also get some Tom Hiddleston and friend of the show David Warner as Kurt Wallender's dad. There are four seasons of three episodes each.

Whitechapel

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The first two seasons of Whitechapel are great. Season one is about a Jack the Ripper copycat killer and season two is about a series of copycat crimes of the Kray twins. The series also stars one of my favorite British character actors, Phil Davis, who Sherlock fans will remember as the taxi driver from the A Study in Pink episode. The problem with Whitechapel comes in seasons three and four. They changed the format and the storylines started getting weird. Feel free to just watch seasons one and two. They have three episodes each.

A Couple of Related Shows...

These shows are different enough that I wanted to keep them separate from the main list, but they both deserve an honorable mention.

Vexed

Unlike all the other shows here Vexed is a comedy-drama. It centers on DI Jack Armstrong, a lazy and disorganized detective who's partnered up with a by-the-book, efficient female detective in season one and a strong, competent female detective in season two. It's basically an Odd Couple situation but with cops. Season one has three episodes and season two has six. It's a good, funny cop show.

Sherlock

I don't think any description I could give of Sherlock could do it justice. It's just a great show. If you are unaware, it's a modern re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. It's great and you should watch it. There have been three seasons of three episodes each and a special (which I think was a bit underrated). Season four starts in January of 2017 and season five is in the works.

Books


Note: This summer was crazy. I posted next to nothing here on the site and we had several long gaps between IrrConPod episodes. The good news is I've got several things in the pipeline for the blog. I just need to find time to get them written...


I finished 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, and started Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey. One of them I really can't recommend and one of them I definitely do recommend, but you'll have to read four other books first.

1Q84 is a strange book. I'm not sure if it's just the author's style or how it was translated from Japanese, but it's strange. It's very readable – if you don't count the references to Japanese culture that I don't get – but it is extremely long and there really isn't that much that happens. The plot, even when it seems like it should be very exciting, is subdued and predictable. And my biggest questions were either answered in a really boring way or just not answered at all. I can't really say it's a bad book but it's not a great story and you could probably spend that time with much more entertaining books.

Nemesis Games, on the other hand is really entertaining. It is book five of the excellent Expanse series of books. They all revolve around the same core characters with many other characters coming in and out of the story from book to book. I really love everything about these books from the awesome, retro-sci fi cover art to the thoughtful and realistic way space travel works in this universe. They're all great and Nemesis Games may be the most interesting one yet. I've heard it described as the Expanse's Empire Strikes Back. I haven't finished it yet, but it seems like an apt description so far.

If you want to get started with the Expanse books, which I highly recommend you do, the first book is Leviathan Wakes and all of the first five books are available in paperback.

Maymont

We went to Maymont Park this morning and I took photos...

I seriously need to get out more and take photos. I am very out of practice...