Hatchet: Using Mistakes to Your Advantage

Hatchet handle

I picked up this hatchet for $5 at a Flea Market with the intention to replace its rubber handle with one made from wood. I have a bunch of reclaimed British Columbia barn wood, and was going to use some of the termite-infested Oak I used for my Demolition Hammer, but it literally exploded in my hands while boring the hole; hilarious, but not helpful.

Choice #2 was some Cedar that had a beautiful and sappy knot at the end. Bored the holes, cut the mitres to accommodate the shaft curve, and then realized I made a mistake with the angles. No problem, I just recut them; but then realized I didn’t actually make a mistake and had fixed it into a mistake. Long story story, by the time things were ready the go the knot had popped out a bit, I had to swap pieces on the shaft, rebuild the knot with epoxy, and added a scrap piece of walnut to the top because it wasn’t long enough.

The shaping and finishing was really fun. There were some curves in the wood grain that helped sculpt the shape, and the amount of different textures made finishing really interesting. By the end of it, the mistakes became my favourite parts:

  • the feel of the Cedar is much better suited for this tool than the Oak
  • cutting too much off to resolve my “mistake” with the mitres gave an amazingly contrast at the curve, and adding the walnut to the top gives a visual stop point and makes choking up more comfortable
  • the knot exploding actually let me use a lot more of that wood, and the epoxy made finishing that part into something comfortable for heavy chops a lot nicer
  • I think it looks amazing

hatchet

Demolition Hammer: Full-Tang Termites

Demolition hammer

I had this hammer lying around, and I thought it was a perfect way to experiment with a new wood. My reclaimed British Columbia barn lumber stash has a bunch of Oak that’s ravaged by termites which died years ago. The result is an incredibly hard wood on the grain, and basically sawdust where the rest of the wood used to be. My idea was to do a full-tang wrap with wooden dowels, and use enough glue and finish to turn the remaining termite-dust into something stable.

3 stages of the hammer

After getting everything cut and carved, the bottom basically disintegrated. Amazingly I had some scrap alley Cedar that just needed one straight cut before it fit directly in. I glued everything together and moved on to designing the shape of the handle.

Pics of shaping

That Oak is awful to work with! I constantly would go to chisel out a small bit, only to have something collapse into dust. I wasn’t about to stabilize it at this point, so I thought for a bit and realized I could work with the gaps instead of against them.

After a basic shaping, I finished the rest by wet-sanding from 60 grit with Danish Oil (1:1:1 Linseed Oil:Solvent:Polyurethane) and rubbing the excess slurry into the gaps. By the time I finished at 600 grit and a couple of days cure time it was completely stable, and all of the sharp points of the gaps had been sanded smooth. I buffed it with some beeswax paste wax, and the result is a surprisingly high-grip hammer with a soft finish.

Close up of finish

Flush Cut Saw

Flush cut saw

I have a list of tools that I want, but don’t need; basically things I’d use occasionally, but not enough to justify buying them. From there I just pay more attention when I’m at flea markets and thrift stores, or eventually get to a point where I’ve “needed” it enough to justify buying a new one. A flush cut saw is on the list, but so is a double-edged Japanese saw, so buying a new flush cut saw is pretty much off the table for me.

Design Process

Growing up poor, I learned a lot about how to fix things and use what I already had to make new things. Last time I found myself needing a flush cut saw I looked around and grabbed a spare hacksaw blade – it worked great! Suddenly I had a flush cut saw and a very simple need: protect my hand from the blade by making a handle.

Handle Selection

I had a nice-looking piece of wood that was handle-sized, and there was a neat little bump at one end that would keep my hand from sliding off, so now I had a blade and a handle: I needed a way to attach them.

Borrowing from Knife-Making

I make knives: typically it involves inserting a blade into a handle and attaching it with metal pins and glue. Hacksaw blades have holes in both ends, and that’s what made the design for me: I realized I could hide half of the blade in the handle and bolt it from the bottom, letting me use each blade twice. I made a kerf down the handle, drilled a hole for the bolt, and gave it a “dry” assembly: all good!

Functional Aesthetics

The one thing left was a non-temporary way to hold the blade in the kerf. A hose clamp worked, but really distracted from the look and didn’t “feel” right. It also needed a shim to cover the ~2mm of space in the kerf. The wood is fallen forest wood, the bottom bolt is a bit big, the blade was 19c: it was developing into something very charming and functional, and a hunk of steel at the end wasn’t the right design decision. My design need had changed from the functional “protect my hand” to the aesthetic “finish the theme with elegance,” and it let me switch from “use what I have” to “use the right thing.”

With metal and glue out of the picture, tape not even an option, I grabbed some twine. It would fill the kerf and create the pressure needed to keep the blade in place, I could easily remove it, and it felt “right.” As a bonus it doubled as grip. I thought about how I needed to knot things and made a video, changing my mind on how to string it up after I hit the record button.

It works a lot better than expected so I couldn’t be happier. I think it looks great and fits in with tools I’ve made, and the twine’s added grip makes it feel really good in my hand. I finished up the project I was working on and added it to my tool collections – flush cut saw was now off the list!

The Aftermath

I used it quite often over the next few days – the flexibility of the blade was perfect for something I was working on so I used it more as a flexible saw than a flush cut.

I didn’t design a flexible saw. It broke.

Broken saw

Redesigning and Moving On

The blade breaking wasn’t surprising. Looking at where it broke, it’s pretty obvious it was my fault for making it flex so much. Having a flexible saw was unexpectedly handy, so I think flush cut is going back on the list. I’ll be getting a stronger blade and rounding the area where it inserts into the handle to accommodate movement.

The value I got from this project was huge; 19c for the amount of work I did is tremendous. I learned a lot about the required structure for a flush cut saw, and unexpectedly learned how to make a flexible saw. I get to add twine as a functional design element to my series of hand-made tools. None of the parts I made broke, so it’s positive reinforcement. And as a final silver lining, making the video was a ton of fun!

Guitars, Banjoes, and 301 redirects

Guitar and Banjo

Chords and Tabs

I have run an archive of guitar/banjo/ukulele/bass chords and tabs at matthewgruman.com for years, and have moved them over here. If you’re seeing something unexpected then you’ve arrived via a 301 redirect (more on that later), but the base content is still here. I’ve removed extras and reorganized for consistency, but please let me know if you see anything out of place!

You can view the archive from its Project Page.

301 Redirects

A quick web search for “SEO 301″ will teach you way more about this than I ever can, but basically it’s a way to redirect users to other places without losing much Page Rank (depending on sources you retain 85% – 100%), while other methods will punish your placement in Google’s results. It’s also a fairly seamless way for your users to retain access to your content while making server changes without punishing them.

I’m using the same URL and link structure in both cases so it was pretty easy. You can use the following code, replacing my URLs with yours, to do the same:

Edit your public root .htaccess file to read as follows:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^matthewgruman.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.matthewgruman.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://gruman.co/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

Photo by Matheus Ferrero.

Designing Without a Plan

I think this is a good place to start. Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either using WordPress’ Twenty Sixteen theme or something completely different. After a lot of thinking and prototyping, I realized I didn’t know enough about gruman.co to design it.

Determining Needs

When I interview a client about a new project, this is always the first step. For projects that are not well-defined, it helps break down a large amount of hard-to-make decisions into simple steps. My base needs for gruman.co are:

  • Custom URL
  • Website hosting
  • Custom emails with IMAP
  • Scalable content
  • Easy to setup and maintain

Custom URL

I had the URL so that step was done. I’m using NameSilo but don’t have much to say about it other than “everything I’ve wanted to do so far has worked.”

Website Hosting

I had the URL hosted with Firebase because I was using it as a home to test some apps. Great service, but not what I need for this site. I also have a regular shared hosting plan over at DreamHost. Ups and downs for them are the same as most other “cheap” hosts, but I’ve used them for about 10 years with minimal issues and amazing support.

Custom emails with IMAP

My workflow involves using macOS Mail for email, and I want @gruman.co addresses. DreamHost has this covered.

Scalable Content

Since I don’t know what the content is yet, I want the site to allow me to store and organize it in a way that will let me migrate and change it in the future if I want to. Basically, it’s going to live in a database.

Easy to Setup and Maintain

Spending effort on setup and maintenance at this stage is counter-intuitive. Since I want a database, this likely means and out-of-the-box CMS.

Making a Plan

Now that I have needs, I can make a plan. I did some research, tried some new technologies, and ended up deciding on my old friend of DreamHost + WordPress. DreamHost covers everything I need right now concerning hosting and emails, and after using it for so long I don’t run into problems; it was an easy choice.

WordPress was a more difficult decision. A large part of my career has involved hacking its core for client sites, and I didn’t enjoy that. The languages it uses, PHP and MySQL, are the ones I first learned when I began programming and my skills in that area have since been superseded by WordPress’ codebase. I did my best to find a different setup, but then I gave a real look at the “new” WordPress and was impressed. Realizing that it did exactly what I needed in terms of scalability, setup, and maintenance, I installed it. Turns out that as a user, I really like WordPress.

After a day for DNS propagation, I had a website online with custom emails active.

Initial Wants

Having my needs finished, I now had a place to collect content. The biggest change between Gruman Co and my previous companies is that I’m creating products/projects and not just freelancing and I needed to separate them. Portfolio and Projects pages were created to take care of that.

I also want to write again. A lot. For now, every time I have an idea I want to write about I create a draft in WordPress and make notes/add categories. Once I had about a dozen, I looked at WordPress’ categories and used them to help me focus my topics and set some restrictions.

Plan Resurrection

I’m finished this site for the time being. Blog posts and pages will continue to be added and there will eventually be a major redesign, but I’ve created a system that I won’t have to think about until I have enough content to inform the design. Getting base needs and wants out of the way has given me a plan.

Bocephus King – Josephina (guitar chords/tab)

The entire song is A D, repeated. Use majors, and throw in some arpeggios.

Lyrics:

What's the point in saying
I'll see you 'round some
Get use to anything
Get used by anyone
Got use to having you
Down here in exile
You've got a heart of grace
As big as Buddha's smile, but

I'm still waiting
You said you'd come for me
I'm still waiting
Just where I said I'd be
If you don't think I'm a number one contender,
Hold on

They gotta name for that
It's prostitution
That's just a wedding ring
It's no solution
He's just a heart attack
He's just a bank account
You gotta save me soul
And cast the demons out

If you still want that trash can wedding
Now pack your bags and you better get ready
If you still think there's a chance for redemption
Hold on

Come back Josephina
We miss you so much

Out here they testify
For drugs or money
Too many points of view
They hate your guts, honey
They'll never leave this place
Without a funeral
I don't recall the song
I know the tune though

I'm still waiting
You said you'd come for me
I'm still waiting
Just where I said I'd be
If you don't think I'm a number one contender,
Hold on

I gotta leave this place
They're killing wishes
Down at the laundromat
They're getting vicious
They parked a Cadillac
Upon my favourite dream, but
There's still a little pride
Left here inside of me

Ghostpoet – Liiines (guitar chords/tab)

Playing notes

This is actually the piano part arranged for guitar.

The entire song is D E B A using this pattern:

   D       E       B       A
E|--------------------------------|
B|--------------------------------|
G|----7-7-----7-7-----7-7-----7-7-|
D|----7-7-----7-7-----7-7-----7-7-|
A|-5-------7----------------------|
E|--------(0)------7-------5------|

I keep on scribbling
In the spare room I'm living in
Body's here but I'm living in
Why do I keep wasting time
I keep on writing, writing
But them folk ain't biting, biting
Maybe the bait ain't juicy enough
So I'm switching, chucking spice in, 
Add some flavor, up the heat, 
silly rhymes and three-time beats, yeah
But that ain't me - nah, nah, nah
It just ain't me
So like me or lie me
These are the words that just be true
Sending them out with love and faithfully,
Hopefully, they'll mean something to me cause...

Life is too short to store our grudges
Life is too long to make no plans, plans
I'm counting up time that I ain't using (1,2,3,4...)
I need a good use for all these lines, and lines, and lines, and lines
And lines, and lines, and lines, and lines...

[Repeat all]

Of Monsters and Men – “Lakehouse” (guitar chords/tab)

Playing notes

The picking part:

   G                               
E|---------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------|
G|---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0-|
D|---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0-|
A|---------------------------------|
E|-3---3---3---3---3---3---3---3---|

   C
E|---------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------|
G|---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0-|
D|---2---2---2---2---2---2---2---2-|
A|-3---3---3---3---3---3---3---3---|
E|---------------------------------|

There are a lot of people playing a lot of guitars in this band, so you won’t be able to play all the notes all the time. Choose one of the ones listed below or switch it up (the singer does this as you can see in the video), and have fun with it. The “B” with the E on the bottom sounds really out of place for most of the song, but you can hear it during the outro.

The chords

G: 320033 or 3x0033 or 320003 or 3x0003
C: x32033 or x3x033 or x3x010 or x32013
B: x20033 or x2x033 or 0244xx

G C G C

G                             C
Oh I miss the comfort of this house
                      G
Where we are where we are
                      C
Where we are where we are
    G                             C
The floor under our feet whispers out
                   G                  C
Come on in come on in, where it all begins

The tallest man I've ever seen afloat,
On a boat, on a boat
On a boat, on a boat
He keeps his only son close by
In a bag, in a bag
In a bag on his back

        G               C
Can you chase this fire away
Can you chase this fire away

We climbed up to the top in worn out shoes
But she ran down she ran down
She ran down to the house
A fox that gains our trust, but then breaks it as he walks
Away from us, away from us

Can you chase the fire away
Can you chase the fire away

       B        C         G
In the fall, we sleep all day
       B        C         G
In the fall, we sleep all day

                       G
Where we are, where we are
                       C
Where we are, where we are
                       G
Where we are, where we are
                       C
Where we are, where we are

Can you chase this fire away (Where we are, where we are)
Can you chase this fire away (Where we are where we are)

In the fall, we sleep all day (Where we are, where we are)
In the fall, we sleep all day (Where we are, where we are)

               B           C           G
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la (repeat to end)

Adam Cohen – “What Other Guy” (guitar chords)

Playing notes

Cohen switches things up a lot throughout the song. Don’t always play the high E string, and throw in some hammer-ons to get the sound right. The G/F#, G/B, and A7sus4 chords are transitional, so you can leave them out if you’re having trouble.

Capo VI

C: x32033
G: 320033
Em: 022033
D: xx0233
G/F#: 2x0033
G/B: x20033
A7sus4: xx2233

Intro:

C G

C                                    G
    I know what you look like in the morning
                         C
Your kisses are soft and warm
                            G
I can draw you with my eyes closed
                                     C
See you with nothing on but the radi-o
                                    G
I know how many years of French you took
                                    C
Your favourite movies, your favourite books
                            G
I know what really gets you going... glowing

  Em             D                      C
I know where you go with your beautiful friends
  Em            D          C
I know what you taste like when the night ends

G                                          Em   
   I know the kind of thing that makes you laugh
                                      C
The way you tilt your head for a photograph
                              G       G/F#
What other guy knows you like that?

G                                        Em
   And I can name the first guy you ever kissed
                               C
I can name the perfume on your wrist
                              G       G/F#
What other guy knows you like that?

    C     G/B
Oh, Anne
    D     A7sus4
Oh, Anne

C                                      G 
   I know what you want by what you're wearing
                            C
The kind of night you're preparing
                                      G
I know what your hands do when you're kissing
                                         C
Your number one and number two favourite positions
                     G
I know how your skin glistens... listen

  Em             D                      C
I know where you go with your beautiful friends
  Em            D          C
I know what you taste like when the night ends

G                                          Em   
   I know the kind of thing that makes you laugh
                                      C
The way you tilt your head for a photograph
                              G       G/F#
What other guy knows you like that?

G                                        Em
   And I can name the first guy you ever kissed
                               C
I can name the perfume on your wrist
                              G       G/F#
What other guy knows you like that?

    C     G/B
Oh, Anne
    D     A7sus4
Oh, Anne
    C     G/B
Oh, Anne
    D     A7sus4
Oh, Anne

  Em             D                      C
I know where you go with your beautiful friends
  Em            D          C
I know what you taste like when the night ends

G                                          Em   
   I know the kind of thing that makes you laugh
                                      C
The way you tilt your head for a photograph
                              G       G/F#
What other guy knows you like that?

G                                        Em
   And I can name the first guy you ever kissed
                               C
I can name the perfume on your wrist
                              G       G/F#
What other guy knows you like that?

    C     G/B
Oh, Anne
    D     A7sus4
Oh, Anne
    C     G/B
Oh, Anne
    D     A7sus4
Oh, Anne