The Texas Bohemian

Word artist. Jack of all Trades.

My haven!

If there’s one thing in this world I’m pretty happy with it’s my shop.  It’s not pretty or glamorous.  Hell, it is about as redneck cluttered as it can be.  But it’s MY shop and it’s a damn good shop as shops go.  I spend a lot of time there making, fixing, or just contemplating.  My shop is mostly a wood shop.  I have a good collection of tools and equipment.  My baby is my table saw.  She gets one hell of a workout.  I have a drill press and an electric coping saw, too.  The drill press is very handy.  The coping saw I don’t use much.  It’s almost new.  I bought it with the idea I’d make wooden guns/toys for sale.  Made up a bunch but haven’t sold any.  I’d sell the coping saw for a hundred bucks!

My green shack and shop

Of course I have all kinds of hand tools and power tools too.  My drill gets used the most.  I had to buy another one a few weeks ago, wore the chuck completely out on the other one I had.  I have a jig saw, reciprocating saw, skill saw, router and …um… forget what you call it, like a router only smaller and faster.  ha.  It’ll come to me sooner or later.  The router is in the pawn shop but I’ll be getting it out soon.

Old tools.

My shop is half work space and half museum.  I inherited my dad’s tools and stuff.  On the back wall I have hand tools that are very old.  I have a tube checker!  What’s that?  It’s a device that checks the quality of electron tubes, the ones that used to be in radios and tvs.  My dad worked on that stuff.  The tube checker is probably a good 60 years old or more.  I remember fooling with it when I was a wee kid.  I have an old hay rake, a collection of old fashioned cross-cut hand saws, some other cool stuff.  I have plow parts, a hay hook, even an old gasoline torch.  My dad used that thing when I was a kid.  I was sure he was going to blow himself up.  I have no idea how to use it and I wouldn’t even try.  It’d be KaBOOM!

There are very few hand tools in my shop that I haven’t had for decades.  I haven’t actually bought a tool in years!  (Well, that’s not true.  I did buy one of those fancy pvc pipe cutters a few months ago.  Easier than a hack saw!  I love it.)  With my green shack project I’m always snipping pieces of pipe for drains and stuff.  There’s not a lot of tools I don’t have that one might need.  Besides the ones in my tool pouch (the pouch is 30 years old!) or on my work bench I have a big metal cabinet full of older, less useful or extra tools.  Ain’t nothing a bigger pain in the ass than needing a tool you ain’t got!

Inside my shop.

I built my shop several years ago from lumber I got from the deconstruction of my wife’s grandma’s house.  The old house used to sit up at the end of our drive.  Grandma Thigpen was a sweet person.  She was in her nineties when she passed in 1992.  Couple years later my pawinlaw took the house down and my shop went up.

I got junk, too.  It’s really hard for me to throw anything away.  When I decide to make something or have to fix something I clamber over my junk boxes, piles, and etc., for parts and stuff to do the job with.  I keep screws and nails and bolts, too.  I am always needing something out of a bin here or there.

My work bench.

Electrified tiller!

Sometimes just for the hell of it I take stuff apart.  I took apart a broken microwave oven the other day.  Totally cool parts in that thing!  Sometimes I scrounge and invent some kind of thing I need and sometimes I work all day and it don’t work.  I mounted a washing machine motor on an old tiller with a dead motor.  It works pretty damn well so far.  Some other projects, well, not always so good.  Ya live and learn.

My dad and I opened a repair shop once.  I was going to fix appliances and him electronics.  It was the wrong era, though.  Appliances were becoming junk that cost less to replace than repair and solid state electronics was slipping away from dad’s expertise.  It was fun for a while, though.  Never made any money at it but had quality time together!  Our motto was “we fix anything but a broken heart.”  ha.

The thing is, people these days spend small fortunes on repair bills because they don’t know shit and don’t know when they’re getting ripped off, which is often.  I worked for a couple of shady service companies through the years.  I refused to screw customers though.  Cost me a job or two.  I could tell stories!  Even the legitimate repair companies make a mint doing easy stuff your average homeowner should know how to do.  It amazes me how many guys I run across these days who don’t know which end of a screwdriver to use.  It’s worse with younger people.  Sad.  I’m not always good with esthetics but there’s nothing around a house I can’t fix and/or know nothing about.

Today I rebuilt the pedestal for my table saw.  I put a bucket under it to collect the sawdust.  I fill a five gallon bucket with sawdust ever few weeks.  Last Monday I rearranged everything to make room for a wood stove.  I am so looking forward to cold weather!  I have my dad’s old pot belly stove I’ve talked about putting in there for years.  Now that I have a good chainsaw and can stock up with wood I’m going to get it installed.  Come winter I’ll just hang out there and watch the fire!  Yeah, baby, maybe cook some campfire coffee on top!  Gonna be goooood!

Anyway, so here’s my shop.  It represents a lot of what I do these days.  Some days I go fishing, though.  Anybody want to come along?

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Blather | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poor Man’s Hydroponics

The makings of a greenhouse/hydroponics garden.

When you don’t have the money to do things fancy you have to make do with what you have.  That’s the story of my life.  With the non-profit and all that went with it in the toilet it became time to do something to earn my keep around the house.  I’ve been working on several projects in the past few weeks.  One of the plans we made is to create a hydroponics system to get us some veggies.  I decided to start that project with a small system built on the side of my shop.  I built a little shelter using small timber I cut from our clearing some land.  Before winter I plan on finishing it out to a greenhouse.  For now it serves to protect the little project from harsh weather.

The shelter roof is supported by two cedar posts.  Cedar does not rot like other types of trees.  I made the roof using oak logs.  For the support slats I ripped a couple of old 2×4’s.  The only thing I had to buy was some plastic for the cover.

Next I installed a water line and an old kitchen sink I had lying around.  The waterline was a bitch since the ground was hard packed and very dry clay.  It took hours to put the line in the ground four inches!  I did have to buy a couple of pipe fittings but most everything else I either scrounged or cannibalized from somewhere else.

The hydroponics system is also built from scrounged stuff.  It consists of a primary water barrel, a flat water trough, a collecting barrel, and a little pump to cycle the water.  I fill the barrel with water, trickle it through the trough, collect the water in the old barrel, and pump it back to the primary water storage.  I

The supports, logs!

hope to collect rain water from the roof when I can afford some gutters to install.  Of course it has to rain, too, and that’s not been happening!

I used the extra plastic left over from the roof/wall to line the trough.  It has one tiny leak in it from a screw sticking up through the old plywood I missed but otherwise it works fine.  I  used a couple of pipe fittings for the drain.  The way to make a drain out of such a pan is to get two threaded fittings, a male and a female.  Cut a hole the size of the mail threaded fitting.  Put it through from the bottom and screw the female fitting on tight.  Use some silicon to make it seal.  Bingo.  Works very well.

The barrel I used for water storage was one left over from our water supply back when we lived in a cabin out here and did not have water down here.   We had a series of barrels tied together which collected rain water.  Sometimes I had to haul water in.  Anyway, the barrel already had a tap at the bottom.  I put a water valve on it and created a drip line across the upper end of the trough.  The drip line was made from part of a washing machine drain and an old piece of plastic pipe.  I elevated the trough at the upper end where the drip is just slightly to help the water flow towards the drain.  Once upon a time I made an aquarium out of the bottom half of a barrel.  We took it out but still had it lying around the place so I used it to collect the water from the trough.   I scrounged an old pump to return water from the collection barrel to the storage barrel.

The primary storage barrel and drip system

Once I had the system working it was time to put some plantings in it.  I needed pea gravel to put in the trough but couldn’t afford it so I used some flat pieces of broken cinder blocks to support a piece of chicken wire.  That would  hold the planters off the bottom.  For the planters I had a pile of short pieces of large pipe we once used in the garden.  (Another story!)  The pipe pieces were from 2″ to 5″ pipe and about 3″ long.  I cut squares of vinyl screen and fastened them over one end of the pipe.  Some of them I used tape and then tried rubber bands to hold the screen on.  Both works.  I’m a bit worried the rubber bands will rot and break but hoping they will hold until the plants come up.  I filled the containers with garden soil from a bag we had already.  I put the planters on the chicken wire.  We bought some seed and I sewed the seed in the planters.

I could never be a farmer.  I hate waiting!  Will this contraption work?  Beats the hell out of me.  We’ll see!  My life is trial and error, lots of both!  One thing I do  know.  I’m going to be fucked up for weeks from screwing up the nerve problem in my back finishing this thing.  I will enjoy my new creation through blinding pain as I take hand-fulls of Gabapentin and Ibuprofen!  Yay!

I often ask myself why I do this shit.  I suppose it’s the masochist streak in me.  And I’m bored to death with the computer and I have nothing else to do.  And maybe the damn thing will actually work and we’ll have some tomatoes, cucumbers and squash in the dead of winter.  Ya think?  I have stuck in a few more pictures just for grins.

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Blather | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment