Monday, August 19, 2013

A Woodworker's Tool Chest

Plane Details's "Perpetuating Woodworking Project"
© 2013 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

It all started, innocently enough, (Have you guys noticed how many of my stories start that way?) with an email from Chris Schwarz, Contributing Editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine and Owner of Lost Arts Press.

I’d been sitting on the shop-built plank stoop in front of my office, letting my eyes relax from staring at the monitor and become accustomed to the searing Afghan sun that was steadily turning my usual seat into a weathered, splintered piece of scrap wood. A few long legged running ants were foraging on the misshapen gravel, looking for the meager crumbs that might have escaped the mini-flocks of sparrows. I figure those ants only come out when the sun’s burning rays are scouring the land so they can avoid the sparrows that are sensibly roosted in the shade.

I’d about had enough of the sun and limited local fauna amusement, and trudged back to my office to see what new and wonderful pronouncements would cross over my desk.

 I fired up the laptop and waiting for everything to load up.

“OMG! An email from Chris Schwarz?” What wonderful and wondrous news!

Quickly click here, wait for it to load… view!

“Hey Albert, you still planning on being home in June?”

To which I responded: “Lord willing and the Taliban don’t manage to separate my head from my shoulders, I should be.”

“That’s great. I want to send you a little something.”

Ok, right now, the majority of you are wondering who is this Schwarz fellow, and why would I be so elated that he wrote?

Image credit: Chris Schwarz/PW
Well, most of you all follow me for the hunting, fishing, and outdoor adventure stuff, but I also do quite a bit of hand work like woodworking and machining. So imagine Ted Nugent or Tred Barta dropped you an email saying they wanted to send you a little something. For those of us that do any kind of woodworking Chris Schwarz is like the Motor City Madman… except he’s not in camo and smeared in bloody entrails; maybe some mutton tallow, but not guts. I don’t think he wails on a Gibson Byrdland either. (College years not withstanding…) But you all get the idea.

“Honey!” I gushed over the VOIP line to the house, “Chris Schwarz is sending me something!”


I could tell she did not understand the galactic immensity of this by the marked lack of enthusiastic and immediate recognition.

“You know - the magazine woodworking guy! The nice fellow who I buy books from all the time.”
 Still nothing.
Image Credit: PBS
“The guy whose picture is on the shelf by the planes and slicks, next to the other guy in red suspenders!”

“Ohhh...” she says as she recalls the picture frame and votive candle incident at Michael’s Craft store and the ensuing fire.

Finally some progress.

“Is that the one with the beard or the big mustache?”


Of course, I’m giving it all sorts of thoughts between rocket attacks and ground fire. Probably some books or videos… No. He wants me to review an as of yet unpublished opus on woodworking! Hmmm, no probably not. Wait… He’s going to offer me a job writing for Lost Arts Press! "Afghan Woodworking" and he want’s research done in the field! Now that would be up my alley. Tearing up the countryside; black bagging woodworkers and interrogating them. Kill two birds with one stone! Fantasized about that one for a while, but unlikely at best.

I know it’ll be something great no matter what!

So I’m counting the days until R&R; home, roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and expecting, well, a little something to arrive at the house.

A week or two before I’m scheduled to get home, I get another email, this one from a fellow named Sam Cappo.

Huh? Who the devil is Sam Cappo? I ask myself. But the subject line says: Friend of Chris Schwarz. Ok, a better than good reference, so let me see what’s up. “Dear Albert, I’m a friend of Chris Schwarz, and I want to send you something.”

You know something, I like getting things, but seriously, I feel vaguely uncomfortable with such largess. But I’ll allow that I know it makes a lot of folks very happy to share their good fortune. I know I like to do it too. So, qualms forgotten, now I’m thinking a couple of little “somethings” will be waiting for me when I get home.

“That Chris,” I think, “what a hell of a fellow. A celebrity no less, but always doing something to help out a fellow woodworker out in the suck.” “What about this Sam fellow? What a lovely gesture to make someone’s day like that, right out of nowhere too!”

Imagine traveling almost 56 hours with little sleep. Imagine a joyous reunion with the Mrs at the airport. Now imagine a Starbuck’s made with real half and half instead of plaster of paris colored water. And imagine, if you will, a large, obviously well-constructed crate covered in shipping labels from an exotic, far flung locale like New Orleans, sitting on the downstairs landing. That’s what awaited me when I walked through the door, along with Charlie the mixed breed ball of happy fur! Hmmm, I think to myself as I try to lift the corner of the crate. This sure isn’t a little something…

 I dump my bags, and after getting my ribs fractured by Blake’s bear hug, drinking another good coffee, scratching Charlie, and paying respect to Her Royal Highness Rollie the cat, Blake and I head downstairs, and between the two of us hoist the crate up a flight of stairs and into the living room. Cristal had taken a seat on the couch, and Her Highness paced around the crate, wrongly assuming that anything securely shipped in such a handsome crate, must be for her. Sam and Chris, I wonder, what have you sent me here.

I cracked open a bottle of Red’s Apple Cider to wash down the coffee and pondered how best to approach this. I had noted that Sam had thoughtfully taped the appropriate bit to the inside of the handle in order to assist in the disassembly of the well-constructed crate.

Blake gets my brace from my tool box, and we start to pull the screws from the lid. I had commandeered a small jar to hold the screws, because anyone who builds a crate as nicely executed as this one has been, deserves the respect of having those screws saved. That, and I tend to save stuff anyway; ever seen my garage? So all the screws were off, and the lid lifted.

Inside we found everything padded in bubblewrap, and wrapped in brown kraft paper with cardboard strips holding everything in place against the capricious handling and unknown ravages perpetrated by our brown suited delivery Santas.

Still no clue as to the contents; though my initial guess was perhaps some nice lumber or something like that. After a bit of looking, I choose a narrow well wrapped object and get a grip on it to pull it free. I can tell what t is by just the little bit I’m hold onto, It’s obviously a saw!

Laying it on top of the crate I unwrap it and find myself holding a lovingly refurbished and recently sharpened panel rip saw. I asked Blake to pull some of the cardboard out of the way while I ran my fingers over the teeth and squinted at the saw’s toothline.

He plucked a half dozen pieces out and said, “Dad, there’s a big blue thing in here, and this other thing feels like a big piece of wood.” I turned to look and he was holding a well wrapped rectangular object.

Ahh, I thought, it is a bunch of wood and maybe a couple of tools. Awesome! I love wood; got all sorts of wood in my garage that I have saved for just the right project! Did he say a blue thing? Go ahead and unwrap it I told him, and went back to inspecting the saw.

“Ummm, Dad. What is this?”

I think I did a double take, as what he was holding wasn’t a board. It was a… “Uh Blake, I really don’t know.”

I rewrapped the saw, and placed it on top of the end table, and peered into the crate. The blue thing was by all accounts a tool chest! Blake handed me the wooden contraption, but in the midst of everything going on and the dawning realization that there was more to this than a bunch of neat “stuff,” I was feeling a bit like a California surfer about to be engulfed by a frothing, towering wave.

I went and sat on the couch for a moment to collect my thoughts. You know, I just got in from Afghanistan, I’ve had a long trip to the front door of the house, everyone including the cat, is glad to see me and well, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Perhaps an appropriate libation for its medicinal effects and properties would help me place everything in perspective.

With a cut crystal tumbler, ice, a scant inch of Wild Turkey American Honey (to wash down the Red’s), and the rip saw on my lap, I settled down on the couch for a moment and marshaled my thoughts.

Cristal saw my anxiety, and took my hand and said, “Albert these are nice people, they appreciate what you’re doing, and want to show you their appreciation with this gift.”

“I suppose you’re right my love.” She has a way of always saying the right thing at the right moment. That includes kicking me in the ass when I need it too.

 Feeling a bit better and less anxious, I got up and asked Blake to give me a hand.

“Blake,” I said, “let’s reach in and carefully lift the blue box up and out, mind the sides now!” We managed to lift it completely out and set it on top of the solid, reinforced crate.

I took another sip of Bourbon, and asked Blake to lift the top of the chest and take a look.

“Holy smokes,” he stage-whispered as he turned to Mom, “it’s full of stuff!” Inside, carefully wrapped in paper and bubble wrap, was indeed, a whole bunch of “stuff.”

I’m not going to bore you all with a blow by blow account of each individual item, even though I really want to! Suffice it to say that Christmas had come very early!

Image credit: Sam Cappo Plane Details
A Stanley # 5 followed by a #4 were the first items I pulled out. Each one looked as if it was better than brand new. A small brass carving mallet followed along with a Disston backsaw. Lie-Nielson chisels and dividers.

On and on it went: A Record 044 plow plane, Lie-Nielson backsaw, handmade squares and straight edges, sharpening stones, pig sticker mortise chisel, router and block planes, marking gauges, beautiful winding sticks, a wooden shoulder plane; I think someone even threw in a sea lion nasal hair bundle for wiping just sharpened blades!

And the contraption.

As you might imagine, I was officially stunned at the magnitude of the gift.

I had to go lie down and take a nap. I heard my wife say, "Put all the tools down! You're going to cut, stab, or otherwise mutilate yourself in bed if I insist on taking them in with you!"


It turns out that Sam had the crazy idea to construct a tool chest, fill it with donated and refurbished tools, and then find someone that would put them to use. He started to write about it, brought Chris on board, and worked tirelessly to put it all together. He chronicles the whole project on his blog Plane Details.

Now, let’s discuss the contraption. I try to keep up with Popular Woodworking’s blogs, and Chris’ own Lost Art Press blog, but listen; the internet really sucks out in Afghanistan. So I miss a lot between accesses. All this in a way to explain why I didn’t know what the contraption was.

Underneath, there was a clearly identifiable maker’s mark. It was the Lost Arts Press logo! Eureka! Now all that was left to do was go through everything that Chris has ever published on-line, and figure out what it is. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely clueless. I had an idea of what individual parts of it where, but I just couldn’t figure out the whole.

After a short search, I found the post where Chris describes and builds “The Milkman’s Portable Bench.”

 Try Squares made by Aaron Moore on the Milkman's Bench

I ran back to my office desk/work area and carefully clamped the sucker down to the desk. The only piece of wood available was an eight inch or so split and somewhat squared quarter of an oak log that somehow ended up on my desk. Without further ado, I clamped it in place, and proceeded to plane it flat with my old Stanley block plane. (I wasn’t about to use any of my new tools until I had sat down with them and gotten to know them better!) That little bench is solid as solid can be and lets you do just about anything you can think of. My friends at ALR are going to LOVE it!

Counter Clockwise from Top: 
Stanely #5, Stanley#4, Lie-Nielson #71, #61 Block Plane, and Record #044 Plow Plane

Now, you might ask, “Which is your favorite tool in the chest?” Well, they’re all fantastic, but one in particular really is incredible to me. Mr Marty Backe made an absolutely stunning straightedge out of 200 year old Hard Maple. He even included a small note, which reads:

“Remember, tools are to be used to make ‘things.’ Don’t abuse them, but don’t treat them as precious things that you are afraid will be worn out if used.”

 I’m going to mat and frame it.

I went down to see my parents, and I took a few of the tools for my Father to see.

My Dad built custom yachts for a firm called Katzenberg (sp) back in the Fifties before he went to the DoD. I believe that he was in the hull construction part of the house, but as you might imagine, I’m certain that everyone at the yard had a hand in everything from the keel to the topside, and interior. In those days it was all wood and fine finishing.

Dad went on to work for the US Navy as an engineer, but never stopped doing a little carpentry or furniture making here and there as need arose. That’s how I became involved in woodworking.

Anyway, Dad’s health has diminished somewhat, and his memory isn’t what it used to be. I visit him each and every time I come home. My Mom’s a real trooper and takes really good care of him. Anyway, when I went to see them, I brought a few tools for him to see. I brought the Record combination plane, pigsticker, maple straightedge, and the Lie-Nielson backsaw.

The effect on him was magical!

My wife cried as he took the tools one at time and vividly recalled his days at the boatyard. He lectured me on the proper care of a good quality saw, remarked that the mortise chisel could use a bit of sharpening, explained to Mom the proper use of a plough plane, and asked me who had made the maple straightedge. It was as if he was transformed and transported back 50 years, his mind clear, and hands strong.

He held the backsaw for some time, looking at it from end to end, lingering on the flame patterns on the handle, running his thumb gently down the tooth line. I saw him squint and look down the saw plate nodding in appreciation of the straight and true line of teeth. I could almost imagine he was considering how to best employ such a quality tool. Fellows, I wish you all could have been there. I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity you all have given my father and I!

Now all that’s left to do is to put it to use. As Marty said, “These are meant to make things.” Blake wants to get started making things, and as soon as I get home permanently, (A few more months!) he and I will have lots to do and plenty to show.

What I need to find is a lumber yard that deals in furniture quality wood. Obviously the first step is to use lesser quality non-descript wood to learn the basics of woodworking. Granted, I know a bit, mostly on a scholarly level, but much past a rabbet or lap joint cut with a table saw and dado blades, I don’t have all that much experience in quality woodworking.

The local Orange and Blue Borg operations carry plenty of poplar and red oak in stock sizes to practice on and at a kind of moderate cost. (Excluding social cost of course…I almost started to rant…) None-the-less I want to stock up on some domestic woods like white pine and quartersawn white oak. I have several projects in mind, from a gunmaker's adaptation of Chris Schwarz’s Anarchist’s Tool Chest  to a Greene and Greene inspired entertainment center.

Plus, I really want an old school library card catalog – five drawers high, eight across… But let’s get the dove tails down first, and then we’ll venture into more stratified regions.

Ok, so, a really big shout out and an eternally grateful “Thank You!” to Mr Sam Cappo for putting this all together.
Chris Schwarz for throwing his weight behind this project and putting in some wonderful additions to the chest.
Marty Backe for not only the straight edge, but especially the insightful note that accompanied it!

And to everyone else, please drop me an email at your convenience; I would like to thank you all individually for your generosity and kindness. And if you know someone who donated to the project, please let them know I’m looking for them so I can thank them!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:  FOB Shank Tent Club
The Hunt Continues...

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time keeping the world safe for democracy and corporate profits, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained Capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bladesmithing, Blacksmithing, and Metal Working Artisans in General!

 We explore metalworking on the net!
© 2013 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Strike When the Iron is Hot!

There is a vibrant metal working community not only out there in the real world, but on the internet as well! people are bending, twisting, melting metals at prodigious rates and in there own backyards and basements. Holy smokes! Ancient mysteries are being unraveled as a matter of course, and we are the lucky recipients of all this information.

I haven't done a Blog Rodeo in quite some time... Shoot I haven't blogged in quite some time either, but the circumstances haven't been conducive to good writing or even thinking for that matter. I think it's going to take quite a bit of time for me to get back to normal.

Well, normal for me anyway!

So lets get back to the metal working shall we?

As you all know I have an interest in all sorts of metal related stuff, not just the bits that come out the front end of 'Mbogo' my favorite Ruger #1.From well crafted tools, to sword blades, I love the work and effort put into each piece, to say nothing of the aesthetics. Look at a well maintained Stanley #45, a Pre-war Colt, or a fine katana forged by a contemporary maker (I'll be introducing you to one shortly!) and regardless of the objects intended use, they have one thing in common.


That's right, quality through and through.

It's the small things too. the extra polish, the precise fitting, the use of quality materials. But there are things that are also made from utilitarian materials, and they also exude quality. It's the craftsmanship, the aesthetic excellence (in other words: Dang, that sure looks nice!),

Let's take a look at some of the Artisans I've gotten to know I the last few months!

Postcards from the path is Mr Ford Hallam's blog. A trained goldsmith and an acknowledged master in the art of Tsuba creation, Mr Hallam unselfishly shares all he knows... as long as you make an effort. His forum, Folowing the iron brush is the center of the Tsuba making universe on the net, and has an incredible number of talented artisans in a variety of fields, that much like Mr Hallam, are willing to share their knowledge. Be forewarned! They don't fool around there; it's serious business and you are expected to follow the rules of the Do-jo.. Otherwise you will have to deal with Lorenzo! But we will get to him shortly.

As many of you know I lean heavily towards the firearm side of the spectrum, but what I have learned on Following the iron brush is invaluable to me. Techniques and ideas that I will spend years sorting out and trying in new and potentially dangerous ways. But as fun as that is going to be, the most important thing that I have taken, and that you will take away from Mr Hallam's forum and education, is an appreciation for art, in all its forms.Take a look at the many videos generously provided by Mr Hallam on Youtube: Ford Hallam: Following the iron brush

Cartographer and Bladesmith, John Page is on a major exploration of the metal medium. His blog Shards of the Dark Age has folders to fixed blades, in 15N20 and Mokume Gane, with the occasional hand crafted bow and map thrown in for good measure, John has it! The key thing that really separates John from others is his meticulous exploration of each theme. Whether it's the maps he draws, or the bow he crafted, all of them show an attention to detail that clearly indicates the work af an artisan. John just started blogging, so please stop by and leave him a note or two!

I bet you didn't know this, but there are many American artisans practicing very traditional forms in our very own backyards. I recently made the acquaintance of Dan O'Conner, a bladesmith trained in his own words,  in a short but intensive fashion by Mukansa swordsmith Yoshindo Yoshihar..Dan has documented his work on his blog, Katana Builders and is currently documenting the construction of his Kagi-ba, or in western terms, Blade Smithing Shop . His posts are well illustrated and again another person that shares his knowledge selflessly. Also check out his Twin Oaks Forge where he shares some of his other interests, including fiddle making.  Dan is also a practitioner of Kendo, the Way of the Sword.

I mentioned Lorenzo a moment ago didn't I? Yes well Lorenzo, we will wait a while before delving into Lorenzo's World where the Mad Italian Philosopher, Jeweler, and Tsuba Artist reigns supreme and asks you the Why of what you do in order to understand the Where that you are heading to!

I have pretty much run out of time and need to get going, I'll pick this up soon with several more Smiths, Artists, Craftsmen, and Artisan!

Be safe, stay alert!

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time keeping the world safe for democracy and the pursuit of profits, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained Capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Beekeeping in Florida: The Coincidental Beekeeper!

Beekeeping Adventures in Florida!
© 2013 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Dear Readers,
Lately, I have had a lot of requests and inquiries about beekeeping; more so than ever before, all put together. So I've decided to reprint this "Chronicles Classic" which I have been told, is very inspirational, educational, and instructive. There are a lot of beekeeping hints and ideas in this post, and it is my sincere hope that it educates, elucidates, and of course as always, entertains you! Albert A Rasch

"The Bear grabs hold, all the while telling me to hurry up before they manage to sting us and we die of anaphylactic shock!"

Quite a few of the things I have gotten myself involved with are coincidental. For instance, I’m a coincidental beekeeper.

You see, I was sitting at the feed store one balmy afternoon enjoying the local gossip, when by coincidence, in walks a local rancher looking for bee killing stuff. “Bee killing stuff?” I wonder. Probably wants wasp or yellow jacket spray. Yellow jackets raise cane with horses, and can drive them to madness, or he had mud daubers and wanted them gone, even though they don’t bother people much. But no, its bees, and by the sound of it they’re in hives. One of the fellows recommends gasoline and a match, while another comes up with motor oil and a sprayer. Its times like these that I wonder how we survive as a race.

Now, I’ve always had an interest in beekeeping. Such diligent laborers those little creatures are. Not that I’m very diligent, but I appreciate their hard work and perseverance. After listening to the eradication plans of my hard working but less sophisticated associates, (I think they had reached the point of mixing an explosive cocktail of diesel fuel, organo-phosates, and black powder.), I graciously volunteered to get the bees.

The denim clad rancher tells me he doesn’t know how the bees got there in the first place. He was pretty sure that they had been in the same spot for a few years. But he wants to clean that area up and get a few more square feet of tomato, cabbage, or whatever plants into the space the hives were taking up. So in that moment of misplaced civic duty, I get directions to the location, fully prepared to gather up not only bees, but a bounty of honey too!

I found the spot with little difficulty. An area about thirty foot wide and ten foot deep had the look of purposeful neglect. Bay trees grew in random spots, and shoulder high weeds covered the rest. Investigating more closely, the buzzing sounds of industry and purpose directed me. I carefully parted the sea of grass and saplings and found a half dozen hives of four or five boxes each, all in various states of disrepair. One derelict hive’s bottom box had rotted so badly that the whole hive listed a good 30 degrees to the left. Searching thoroughly, there were two other hives and assorted other boxes in the surrounding brush, most of them unsalvageable.

I went back home and did a lot of reading. Which in and of itself was educational, but did little in preparing me. Most of the information I gathered was related to production. There was some info on moving them from one location to another; not on the actual mechanics of the process, but rather the importance of proper relocation. It is true, we came to find out, that there’s really nothing quite like hands on experience to get a real world education.

I figured that night time was the very best time to get them. They would all be home and cozy. Bees have to sleep, right? What could be simpler than gently picking up the hives and putting in the back of the Blazer, then taking them home while they slept? Of course bees don’t really sleep. By the time I had figured out that a hive weighs in excess of 150 pounds or so when loaded with bees, wax and honey, the girls had crawled all over me and proceeded to sting me at every opportunity. By the third or fourth barb, I had decided to retreat and regroup.

If at first you don’t succeed, make a plan. So it was time to plan the operation.

The next night I came better prepared. First on the list was blocking the entrance; a properly cut one by two would take care of that. Sweatshirt, light gloves, duct tape, mosquito netting with a hat, head lantern with a red filter, and two large Rubbermaid containers to hold the hive. The plan was to remove the top box, lay it to one side, remove the next one, put it on top of the first, and so forth until I got to the bottom one which I would then put in the Rubbermaid box. Then the rest of the boxes would go back into the Rubbermaid in proper order.

That was the plan.

I arrived at the location an hour after sunset. I geared up and went right to work. What I hadn’t noticed the previous night, was that bees frequently gather at the front of the hive, sometimes in smaller clumps, other times in much larger, depending on the temperature. This was a warmer night, and there were plenty of them hanging around the outside of the box. And I might add everyone is home at night. A couple of inexperienced and misplaced hands, a thump or two, and they were angrily buzzing around.

For those not accustomed to having bees crawling on you and what sounds like angry buzzing all around you, it can all be disconcerting, or terrifying whichever the case may be. I had removed the mosquito netting before I even got to the hives because it impaired my vision. I felt the first bee land on my cheek and before I could formulate a plan of defense, she let me have it. At that moment another two or three commenced defense plan delta, landing on my exposed neck and scalp.

By now I was running around in circles, arms flailing in every direction, which only made matters worse. A bee landed right on my forehead. I took a quick slap at it with my left hand. Of course I forgot that I was wearing my wedding band. Damn near ¾ of an ounce of tungsten carbide clocked me a good one right between the eyes. That staggered me. I don’t know what happened to the bee though. My wife was watching from the safety of the Blazer. She rolls the window down and hollers at me: “Honey! Baby, are you all right?” I’m thinking to myself “Yeah fine, I’m lovin’ all of this!” All I manage to get out, according to her, was “I’m going to die out here! AAAaaargh!” I run for the relative safety of the car.

 Obviously my plan required refinement.

I finally called the fine folks at Rossman Apiaries. After explaining my situation to the nice lady that answered, she recommended I use a smoker and maybe another person to help lift the boxes.

OK point taken.

Now, it’s not that I’m cheap, but I am frugal. Money is always tight when you’re raising kids, and the price of everything keeps on going up. That smoker would cost me $28.00 of hard earned income. I, of course had a better idea. Back in the day I was quite the cigar aficionado. I still have a couple dozen boxes of cigars in a humidor I made out of a large tool chest. (That’s another story…) So I grabbed a couple of stogies and went forth to do battle one more time.

Firing up that cigar with my multi jet cigar lighter and savoring the aroma and taste of a fine Dominican blend, I set forth once again to save the bees. (Just go up a half-dozen paragraphs, where it starts with “I arrived at the location an hour after sunset.” And you get the idea of how this plan worked out. Save me the trouble of retyping it…)

I finally broke down and ordered the smoker.

When it arrived a couple of days later, I took it to the shop, loaded it up with cedar wood chips and lit that sucker. Finally! Voluminous clouds of cool white smoke! Now I was in business.

This time I brought Jordan Bear with me. We geared up in substantially the same stuff as before. But this time we had “THE SMOKER.” We decided to move the smallest of all the hives which consisted of three boxes total. We lit the smoker with a micro torch and made darned sure that the thing was well lit and smoking vigorously. We approached the hives like two Roman gladiators sizing up a known and dangerous opponent. I started puffing that smoker like a steam locomotive. Clouds of smoke wafted over the hive. The bee’s wing vibration increased noticeably from a gentle hum to an angry buzz. I looked at Jordan but couldn’t make out what he looked like in the dark and behind the veil. (Sweating bullets I bet.) But as we watched, every bee on the outside marched into the hive. I gave Jordan a quick rundown on what we were going to do. I pulled out my cabinet maker’s pry-bar and positioned it between the first two boxes. I gave it a sharp rap with the palm of my hand to separate the two boxes from each other. All I managed to do was to shake the hive from side to side. I tried a couple of other corners with similar results.

 I gave the hive a couple of more puffs of smoke. I sent Jordan back to the car for a tire iron. A short time later he was back. By this time I had darn near suffocated the bees with smoke. Anyway we placed the pry-bar back in place and gave it a couple of good whacks with the tire iron. It took a good eight or nine solid blows before the boxes parted. By now the bees were getting real noisy; a few were even flying around looking for something or someone to sting. I suppose that if someone was banging on your house you would be pretty aggravated too. But the smoke was keeping them pretty pacific… I puffed that smoker some more. I tried to lift the top box off but the frames from the lower box were stuck to the frames from the upper. (The bees build comb on the frames, and the frames are what hold the wax combs and honey.) By now bees are crawling all over the hive, my arms, chest, and plenty have taken flight. I can see exactly where this is heading. I put the box back down crushing a dozen bees, and give it a violent twist to break the adhesion between the two sets of frames. All I manage to do is spin the three boxes around.

Did you know that crushed bees smell like silicon spray? i didn't until then. And did you know that the smell of crushed bees incite the others to attack something? Didn't know that either.

I tell Jordan to grab the bottom boxes and brace against the next twist. He grabs hold, all the while telling me to hurry up before they manage to sting us and we die of anaphylactic shock. I gave it another mighty twist and thankfully separate the two. We put it in the Rubbermaid box and cover it. I take the bottom two boxes and with Jordan’s help put it in the second box. There are still a few dozen bees flying around, and I hope they all found a home in another hive; I wasn’t going to hang out any more than was absolutely necessary. We each grab one end of the tote box and carry it to the car, load it up, and go for the other.

Finally, we are at the car and congratulate each other on a fine job. I pulled my gloves off, and then the cap and veil. Jordan was doing the same. Both of us tossed them in the back and I started the car. What didn’t occur to either of us was that bees were crawling all over our shirts, hats, gloves, and everywhere else. Of course I had the car rolling down the shell road before it happened.

In hind sight, it was obvious that we started celebrating too soon.

The Bear, his appellation and appendages notwithstanding, screams like a girl. I mean pitch, intonation, all of it, as teenage girl as it can get. How he gets his vocal cords screwed up that tight is beyond me. All I know is that he screamed, I jerked the wheel, and we were barreling off road across a pasture at 40-50 miles per hour. Now, right about this point I feel the damned bees crawling on my neck. My right foot was trying to get to the brakes; both hands were trying to keep the car under control. Each hummock of grass threw us against our safety belts or slammed us into the doors. I feel the first of several stings nail me on the back of my neck. At some point, I don’t know when, Jordan managed to tear the belt off, open the door, and before I could react, was bailing out the door. I suppose the car wasn’t really going that fast but it felt like forever before it stopped. The Bear already had his feet under him and was off to the proverbial races. I wasn’t far behind.

About an hour later, we were back on the road again, none the worse for wear, if you don’t include the five or twelve stings we got. Once we were home, we moved the totes under a tree that would remain shady until we could get the hive reassembled. Assembling them wasn’t that bad, as the bees were obviously disoriented by the move and allowed us great latitude to do whatever we needed to do without too much grief. That and it was daylight which made it easier to figure out what we were doing.

Believe you me; we learned quite a bit from that experience. The following moves went much more smoothly. We collected a minimum of stings, and ended up with seven hives of bees. We have collected about two hundred pounds of honey from our hives this fall

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

On the same theme:
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles: Afghanistan, Permaculture, and Beekeeping

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained Capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Greetings and Happy New Year from Fish Creek Spinners!

© 2013 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles™
JohnDelaney and Fish Creek Spinners!

My fishing friend and lure maker John Delaney of Fish Creek Spinners, recently sent me this note letting me know about all the great things going on at FCS!

Greetings and Happy New Year from Fish Creek Spinners! 
I hope the Winter weather is letting you enjoy the season and thoughts of Spring are beginning to take shape.

Now for the news! 
  • The website homepage has been reorganized, and work continues to improve the web store format.
  • There’s an early season 30% discount - FCS3013 - running on all web store products through 3/13/13. Take advantage of the reduced prices if you need some spinners. 
  • I added a promotion box button on the Fish Creek Spinners home page that I'll make visible when a discount is running. It will list any active codes and their specifics. I also added some Javascript mouse over pop ups on models in the grid. (The jury’s still out on whether it’s a positive or negative impact. You can disable browser popups if these bother your navigation.) When you visit, be sure to refresh your browser cache to pick up any changes; new pages, new spinners, and new codes, show up frequently and many times go unnoticed without a refresh on your browsers cache. 
  • Ultralite and Medium sized Trout spinners continue to be our best volume sellers in all markets. 
  • Always scroll down the pages. I put popular spinner models in the grids up top, but often times, less popular models are available that might interest you. Last year we added 1/5 and 1/4 oz Glass Armadillo's, June Bug Transformers, 2/3 oz Skirted June Bug Armadillos, and larger 2 and 3oz Muskie and Pike tackle. 
  • I’m also excited about using the twirling Mustad Slow Death hooks on bait rigs with our new Bullseye rigs, Walleye Props and optioned on most walleye rigs in the Walleye Category. 
  • The Large spinners and Spinnerbaits are selling online and bringing back some fish pictures from around the globe. My thanks, to all of you that sent in some pictures! 
  • This year I expect the rigs with Slow Death hooks to get some quality time in the water and bring back awesome Walleye pictures. 
  • I also have high expectations for the June Bug blade spinners – Transformers, Walleye rigs and Skirted Armadillos.
  • Stop by and check out our many products if you need a restock or want to try some different colors, a new species, or new models. 
  • Finally, always check the Assortments. Best prices on the website, especially with a discount. 

Best of luck with this years fishing adventures and Cheers! 
Noise on the Line! 

John Delaney (303) 949-9174

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Afghanistan Still Sucks...

Hello everyone!

Yes it's been a long time since I've posted anything, and it may be longer still before I can finally get back to outdoor blogging again.

I'm still in Afghanistan plugging away and earning my keep. Nothing new to report on that; it's the same old crap, repackaged for the nightly news. That's if they even mention it anymore. 

Other than that, I am older and more cynical. Still don't have many gray hairs though!

I see that the political carnival and specifically the Congressional Side Show is still running. It would be entertaining if it wasn't so dangerous. My Dad once told me, "The Cuban people got just what they asked for and deserved when they allowed Castro to take over." I could say the same for us...

On a lighter note, I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and hunting season too. Thank your blessings whenever you have your family near and can spend time with them.
Anyway, email me anytime; I can get that much easier than I can get on Blogger. 

You all stay safe, keep alert, and for the sake of the Union, vote wisely. 

Your friend,
Albert A Rasch