Sunday, January 4, 2009

1P = 1000W


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Chill wind kicking out of the north. Low clouds scudding along. Sun is up but the temperature is only 46F. It's past 0800 on a Sunday morning and a friend has stopped by in Emergency-Mode to borrow a battery charger and a hundred-foot extension cord, both of which I've got to spare and so does he, except his is fifty one-way miles away and mine's not.

Have to dig for it, through. Extension cord is buried under a ton of crap in the breeze-way that's been accumulating ever since this cancer business has shot me down.

One of the things that has to be moved is a jig for making ribs, which my friend recognizes because he's made one too. Except his is prettier. And made on real lumber whereas mine is made on a piece of Particle Board -- which is another term for a kind of super-thick paper. Which means it's heavy as hell and warps like a bitch, unless you do something about it. And there it is, stored outside, not exactly in a mud puddle but damn near and my friend has picked it up to move it and is standing there, flipping it back & forth like he's never seen a rib jig before and the wind is finding all the holes in my pants. And my friend is STILL flipping the thing back & forth...

"So... WHAT?" I finally yell at him and he starts to hand me the rib jig and I'm backing away because the thing weighs enough to break my arm-bones, thanks to them being chewed upon by Madam Myeloma and the Cancer Quartet.

"This is Particle Board!" he says, giving me one of those... looks as if it's supposed to be something else.

"So? Didn't I tell you to use Particle Board?" I'm pretty sure I did. Particle Board is inexpensive and I use it -- and a lot of MDF -- for form-blocks... for shaping aluminum. And for jigs, like the one shown in the pictures here, and for lotsa other stuff. In fact, I got some MDF standing right there, just waiting to be used for something as soon as I think up what.

Then he turns the jig over and glares at me. I mean a real Death & Taxes, Women & Children First kinda glare, as if I'm just slipped on my wife's nighty so I could sneak into the lifeboat. "You didn't tell me about that," and he glares at me some more.

The that is a couple of pieces of 1x2 I've glued & air-nailed to the piece of particle board to keep it from warping, which is what it does. So does MDF. So you don't let it.

"You never mentioned... that," he says, sounding hurt, turning his head and looking away.

I'm about to laugh when I realize he's serious! "Gee, I'm sorry..." but I can see the pain runs deep.

We finally clear the junk off the 100 foot extension cord and he's on his way back out to the airport, a couple hours saved but a friendship slightly damaged (...and even more so when he reads this :-)

The rib jig is where it's at because I can scrape off the little blocks that make it a rib-jig, sand it down with some #80 and I've got my piece of particle-board back again, to use for a different rib-jig... or to cut up for something else. Building on the Cheap often means salvaging and re-using materials once they are no longer needed for a specific task.

Building on the Cheap also means pressing inappropriate materials into service now & then, such as making a rib-jig on a piece of MDF... or particle board. Normally, you wouldn't do that because both of those materials like to warp, with MDF being the leader of the pack. But to get a piece of wood that won't warp you're going to need 3/4" plywood... or 1-1/2" plywood... (!!) which is actually two pieces of 1 x 12 shelving glue TOGETHER center-to-center, meaning the trunks of their repective TREES are glued together. And if that didn't come across, take a couple of planks of 1 by 12 pine shelving and look at their end-grain.

Knowing how to prevent warpage is part of the package when you're building on the cheap.

-R.S.Hoover
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