Curiosity Bin

A new toy for the backyard woodlot!

Cut a railroad tie into a big piece and a little piece, cross lap the little piece and big piece
together to form an L support for an old car spring, attach a pivot bracket and 6 foot length of
1 inch square tube above the car spring, force the axe handle remnant into a 1 inch diameter
galvanized nipple and bolt axe assembly into the business end of the tube, make a box of sufficient
dimension to hold 5 standard red bricks and use U-bolts to attach the counterweight above the
axe head and voila! a beautiful backyard wood splitting tool modeled on some of the European
versions seen on the Internet will appear before your very eyes!

Now your mileage may vary but my cash layout for this little project was $12.00 to buy the
railroad tie from Home Depot, $2.00 to buy a 1 inch galvanized steel nipple, $11.00 for
miscellaneous u-bolts, lag bolts, washers and nuts etc. for a grand total of about $25.00
cash money USD!

The car spring came from my friendly local mechanic (Thanks Rocky!), the tube and bracket,
bricks, plywood etc. came from my junk pile and of course, the inspiration came from
the Internet (thanks Youtube!)

To quote the legendary George Peppard, Leader of the A Team: ” I love it when a plan comes together!”

Happy firewood splitting everyone!


The world is filled with technical specification requirements, commercial,
legal and government code restrictions,even engineering design demands-
all of which fall under the general rubric of “Best Practices”.

Most people in most work environments accept the value of these generally
accepted practice templates, usually based on a previous generations experience
of bitter failure from past attempts to achieve a certain desirable outcome.

Architects tell more than a few dramatically epic war stories.

For many, Boston’s John Hancock Building may come immediately to mind. CLICK LINK



But then appears today’s Exhibit A from my little world of residential
repairs and improvement- an example so far off the beaten path as to make
any carpenter question the value of code compliant design or any other generally
accepted “Best Practice”.

Forget about the absence of X braces or the retrofitted angle brackets (and bolts?)
and just meditate briefly on the location of a two story load bearing post positioned
in the middle of a 12 foot open span rim joist! Held in place by nails? Impossible to
determine from the street.

Truly this is a marvel of by guess and by golly backwoods engineering.

The ultimate Best Practices Paradox!

Given the age of materials this structure has been in service at least ten
if not twenty or even thirty years! In all that time people have used these
stairs and no harm has come to anyone.

By what magic does this deck remain upright? Surely BEST PRACTICE protocols
would predict a quick and early demise long ago!

Mortal minds will be hard put to determine whether this edifice is an example of
divine intervention or satanic interference.

But there she stands proud and unquestioned for all to see.


A blast from the past!

Yes! Before the World Wide Web, Blogs, Vlogs, Podcasts,
Twitter, and EVEN FACEBOOK(!!!!), civilization was blessed with something

Newspapers were the all-knowing, all-seeing omniscient precursor to

People found these newspaper things sold on every street corner, free to
read in every barbershop, restaurant, library,and shoeshine stand.They eagerly
consumed the content therein for all the IMPORTANT EVENTS OF THE DAY.

And sometimes the newspaper Gods would smile on ordinary Pedestrian
Americans and publish their (unpaid) homegrown contributions to
Civilization within the sacred, hallowed pages of the daily press.

So back on December 22, 1991, yours truly found his humble suggestions for
a Safe and Happy Holiday reproduced in the Friday edition of Raleigh’s News &
Observer, thousands of copies of which were distributed all over the State of
North Carolina and other select portions of the United States!

A heady experience for a small town Fixit Guy!

So for a taste of vintage humor enjoy this selection from the voluminous archives
of yesteryear’s Fixit Files!

Note the reference to a spontaneous battery fire! Before laptops and cellphones!



No more digital thermostats!

After 3 super duper programmable wonder boxes which could do everything except run
the furnace we dragged the vintage 1960 era bimetallic analog milk horse out of
retirement and watched in amazement as the house warmed up and cooled down without a hiccup!

The only problem was temperature control.
In the 1960’s no one quibbled about 71/72/73 degrees.

Close enough was good enough.

Enter another fine analog product from yesteryear- the lipstick tube.

With a twist of the dial the temperature can be adjusted in increments of 1/2 degree!

Ma is happy, I am happy, the furnace is happy.

Happy, happy, happy!

By the way, credit for the lipstick tube adjustable switch courtesy of
Fred MacMurray in “Dive Bomber”

Today another new addition to growing archive of wildly improbable vehicles
which intermittently travel through downtown Raleigh: The Tesla Model S.

This is rumored to be the “it” car of the 21st Century. Completely electric.
High performance. 250 mile range before recharge. Sticker price under 6

Slightly above my pay grade, but well within the luxury car bracket.

Apparently from a dealership here in Raleigh. Who knew Raleigh had a

I eagerly await the pickup truck service vehicle variant.



Attentive readers may remember previously central downtown Raleigh was graced with
a horse drawn Surrey with the fringe-on-top: CLICK LINK

A Home Built Street Jalopy: CLICK LINK

A Genuine Go Fast Lotus Elise:

A prestige luxury Bentley: CLICK LINK

And, of course, the wildly improbable GOOGLE Street Photography car: CLICK LINK


The importance of oversize plywood circles in the modern world
cannot be overstated. Consider Wobble Boards. Yeah, I never heard of
them either. But they are an important part of physical therapy and
athletic conditioning. Witness the instructions right from a physical
therapy clinic. Quote: “Make a wobble board by cutting a circle
of plywood two feet across.” (Yes. Really. That is what the instruction
sheet says to do. Good luck post operative home person!)

After some research into Balance Board design I put together this quick
video How-To guide for those of you who might also need a Wobble Board….

For more information about balance boards a Wikipedia Article:

And two physical therapy videos:

Did you know puppies use Wobble Boards? Neither did I.

Dedicated readers may recall previous oversize plywood circle projects.

The Worlds’s Largest Cat Scratch Post:

Video of the World’s Largest Cat Scratch Post in action:

Cutting circles with the venerable Delta Sawbuck Table saw..

Cutting an 18 inch circle with a simple scrap wood Router Guide





It is wheelbarrow week here at the International Headquarters!

After a new handle for the robust contemporary design, (CLICK LINK HERE)
work began on an older vintage cousin with many similar robust features
from yesteryear– an all metal wheel with bearing axle, an all metal pan,
and most remarkable– metal parts coated with a thin layer of protective

Yes, before stamped one piece plastic pans and powder coat metal finishes,
old timey implement metals were designed to coat themselves with a
thin layer of preventive rust which would inhibit corrosive metal
eating rust from ruining vital parts.

Read about protective rust here– click link.

Much to my surprise it was this layer of protective rust which allowed all the
nuts to loosen freely from their respective bolts without any assistance
from oil or Liquid Wrench or other solvents. Two nuts and bolts were
completely reusable and returned to service in their original locations.
All this after 40-50(?) years of unprotected exposure to the elements.
Then, as now, they did what they could with what they had available.

Sometimes the old innovations worked as well or better than modern ideas.

So here’s to the good days with a wheelbarrow restored to a second life
of service with a new set of handles!