Bespoke Monitor Stand

I’m using two reams of paper to hold my monitor at the right height. These reams are totally functional. However, I’m trying to learn to make passable hand-cut dovetail joints and I had material from an old keyboard tray that does not fit with my office’s new furniture.

As a tangent, before starting this project I rebuilt the woodworking bench my grandfather gave me before he died. I think he would agree it was an expedient bench, and not an excellent bench. I’m glad to improve it. He made the bench top from unsanded 2×12 inch pine planks, with only moderate knots but with pretty awful warping.

I made my new bench top from his old one. I reground, honed, and lapped the blades, and squared the soles of the two jack planes I inherited. Then I planed out the cup, twist, and bow from the top surface. I planed the bottom surface to a lesser degree, but enough for the bench top to sit true.

I epoxied the handle back together on my inherited Bailey No. 7 jointer plane, reground the blade, honed the blade, and reground the chip breaker. Then I clamped the boards face-to-face, and squared the edges. I glued and clamped the top together, making it effectively a single solid piece of wood that was flatter and stiffer than it even had been.

It was connecting to use the hand planes I inherited, sharpened, lapped, and repaired the handles. More connection to square a benchtop I also inherited. I feel good that somewhere in the roughly 40 gallons of wood shavings (no exaggeration), are dents and oil stains my father made as a boy. And now my daughter and son are leaving dings in the new surface, and I feel good about that too.


I made bench dogs using oak dowel and springy stainless I repurposed from an old windshield wiper blade. The work great and cost about 25 cents a piece. Funny that I seriously considered buying brass ones at over $10 each until I learned how easy these are to make.


This post, though, is not really about the bench. The working bench was a nice foundation on which to build…a bespoke dovetail monitor stand.

Hand cut dovetails are not intellectually challenging. You can learn the concepts of how to do it with a few hours browsing tutorials. You need a good saw, but I made do with a mediocre one. You need to have a set of chisels and they need to be sharp. So, in a few hours you know how to make handcut dovetails. Trouble is, you can lean how to play piano the same way.

The guys who cut these in four seconds flat while whistling are like Rachmaninoff, only they’re dustier than he was when he did his work. I’m working up to Peanuts’ Schroeder.


It is made from an oak veneer birch plywood, but not multiply. The dovetails are cut at 14 degrees, as clearly indicated by Veritas’s sales literature for dovetail marking guides. The effect of the dovetails with sheet goods is rather cool. It makes the wood look hinged on the ends. It is pretty strong too, though I wouldn’t want a child to stand on the top.


The better fitting parts, like the example above, are really pretty good. Over the length of the joint there are places that gap a little. The thin oak veneer flaked off at the joints in some cases, and so the structural gaps are actually smaller than the surface gaps.


Sushi Dinner

Tonight we made a sushi dinner, and for the first time included kid-specific items. I used sweetened egg, tamago, sheet cut and pressed with rice in cookie cutters. We made stars and sushi boys. They love the California rolls, shrimp pieces, and vegetable-tamago rolls as much, but it was still fun to make.

My rice recipe and the idea for the shaped pieces came to me from Barber and Takemura’s Sushi, Taste and Technique. It turned out a double recipe of rice was not enough, so you can see at the back pinwheels. Probably we should call them tortilla maki.


Food Storage and Refried Beans

A solid storage plan includes food, and also anything else you need to make the stored food into something edible. The difficulty is that none of the food storage guides or recipe books I have list how much fuel to store in order to make their recipes.

To rectify this, I have begun measuring fuel consumption when preparing recipes roughly as I would in no-gas and no-power emergency. Perhaps others will find this useful, and quantify their recipes.

The first step is to reduce the total fuel as much as possible, and the first target food is beans. Beans are a nice target because I have a lot of them—something like 15 lbs of kidney beans that are probably older than me. Furthermore, they offer excellent nutrition, and finally they cook for ages. The two techniques I know to reduce fuel use are pressure cooking and pre-soaking.

The test recipe today was for refried beans. The result was more delicious than any canned refries I have ever eaten, though the texture was much lumpier. The recipe is below. I cooked on my Coleman dual-fuel stove, using white gas. Cooking is performed in two stages, the first cooks the beans under pressure, and the second cooks the onions and “fries” the beans.

Total Fuel Use: 122 g (about 6 fl oz) of white gas

Pressure Cooking the Beans: 70 g (about 3.4 fl oz) of white gas

Refrying: 52 g (about 2.5 fl oz) of white gas

Pressure cooker seated on the stove in the back yard.

Pressure cooker loaded with the beans and other ingredients, prior to pressure cooking.

Pressure cooker at pressure; the heat is too high as shown by the copious steam jet.


Adapted from Vickie Smith’s recipe for Refried Beans

Step 1

1 lb dried pinto beans, soaked at least 4 hours

4 cups pork or beef broth, stock, or water

Add beans and broth to pressure cooker, plus enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches. Stir to mix, lock the lid, and bring to pressure (15 psi) on high heat. Reduce heat to lowest setting that will maintain pressure, and cook for 12 minutes—I cook for 13 at 1 mile altitude. Remove from heat and let pressure drop naturally. Drain beans and mash them with a potato masher until they are to your taste in lumpiness.

Step 2

1/4 cup bacon fat

2 onions, finely chopped

1 mild poblano, pasilla, or Anaheim chile, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat the fat in the pressure cook, add the onions, chiles, and garlic, cumin and cook, stirring, until they are very soft. Add the mashed beans in two or three batches, stirring to mix.

Broken Clamp

Sometimes things happen. Fortunately, there were no injuries. I was using this lump of crud to clamp some wood pieces while the glue cured. Or rather, I was trying to do so. The tension I had on the clamp was modest; certainly didn’t have bear down on the screw. Oh well, cheap tools. This is a 4 inch C-clamp. Note that the pivot separated too.

There isn’t any sign of currosion or other pre-existing fracture. The crystaline structure in the metal is quite variable, which implies the casting temperature wa poorly managed.

Subscribing to this blog

I use RSS to subscribe to my friends’ blogs, and to feeds from certain authors I enjoy. Subscribe, in this case, means that I go one place to see if anything new has appeared on myriad sources. The software or service that assembles all your subscriptions in one place is called an aggregator. I use iGoogle, both as my home page and as my aggregator. The following screen capture shows part of my home page. There are six widgets—each has its own blue title bar. Weather, Google Calendar, and Google Docs are all non-RSS widgets. The other three include two from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Telegraph, and one which is the feed from this blog. I have concealed my friends’ blogs in the interest of their privacy.

To subscribe to this blog you may be able to simply click the little RSS icon in your browser’s title bar, shown in the next graphic. You are using Firefox, right?

This worked for one friend of mine, but did not work for me. It was, however, easy to do through Google. I clicked “Add Stuff” on my iGoogle page, and then clicked “Add feed or gadget”, and in the box I entered the feed URL for this page

Visit the link above and you’ll be greeted by something like the following graphic. Perhaps that will help.

You might find the following button works for Google too

Add to Google