All the news at the door, such a revelry

Major delay in posts, ya'll. I had been doing so well with the regular updates!  It's the regular story though: between work, other projects, and like, one or two social things to do, sitting down to write for an hour or so each night ends up taking a backseat, which is unfortunate because I enjoy the reflection time, and it helps frame little setbacks and successess in the larger context of the project or my life.  

The delay has also not been for wont of ideas of what to write about.  This one's gonna be picture heavy since I actually have a couple of other things I'd like to try and squeeze in today.  Who knows though, they made end up getting rambly and disjoint (the topics for them tend to induce those kinds of though patterns) and may never see the light of day.  We'll find out!

First off, Jessie and I hiked up Mt. Baldy yesterday which was an amazing day hike, if a bit knee-wobbly what with the knife-edge hiking and sketchy, loose-trail, death-drops.  As far as I know, no one died on the trail yesterday, but given the number of people up there, I'm surprised more don't!  Sort of kidding, kinda not...  There was some snow on the trail, but nothing we needed spikes, crampons or an ice-axe for.    

For those who aren't familiar, Mt. Baldy (more formally known as Mt. San Antonio) is the tallest mountain in southern California with the peak just over 10,000 feet (10,066 or something like that).  We hiking the 10/11 mile loop heading up to Baldy Notch first, crossing the Devil's Backbone trail, summitting, then ultimately down via the "bowl" and Sierra Club Ski Hut trail.  

Anyways, to cut to the chase, the summit views were incredible and totally worth the vertigo inducing sections of the Devil's Backbone trail:

360-degree views (this is only like 270 of the 260, but still, not too shabby)

Jessie and me at the "official" summit right before signing the register.  

Looking Northwest over many more miles of the San Gabriels, I believe.

Pictures can't do it justice, but there are sections of this trail where the mountain really does drop off at, like, 60 degree angles on both side of the maybe 4-6 foot wide trail.  There are also a couple of sections where the trail has clearly crumbled, or has loose rock and debris spill down onto it from above, and has been repacked to ~12-16 inches wide, with a fall below you that would almost certainly kill you.  I, perhaps not very surprisingly, don't have pictures from that particular section since I was more focused on not dying or having a panic attack.    

I'm not phobic of heights, but I definitely don't enjoy them in most situations.  I have no problems if I have a rope and some sort of redundancy system in place.  There were definitely some sections of the backbone trail that pushed the limits of what I was ok with.  But hey: I made it through.  After the particular section where the trail really kind of felt like it could give way, the hike was beautiful and no longer vertigo-inducing.  You're up high, but you could slip or the trail could crumble a bit and you could catch yourself without issue.  Anyways, totally worth it!  Here are some more photos of the approach.

This section of the trail doesn't look too bad in the picture, but you are VERY aware of how high up you are when you're walking it.  This was also on of the more narrow sections where I felt comfortable enough to get my camera out... I was not comfortable.

The final approach up to the Baldy Summit.  I'm there on the trail looking tiny.

One to kinda try and indicate the scale of what you're looking at.  I've marked the Baldy summit off in the background and those two little black specks headed up the peak on the right.  Yep. Those are people.  These are big mountains.

The desk I've been building is coming along really nicely with the exception of this morning being a total bust since I couldn't find the varnish that I want to use at Home Depot and I found out that even Rockler down in Torrance doesn't stock it.  Oh well.  I also finally drew the noise complaint I've been waiting for for the last two years due to some sawing.  Ugh. I hate living in an apartment.  Interestingly, it wasn't from any of our immediate neighbors, but rather folks that live a couple of apartments away.  Either our neighbors don't care or there's some weird resonance effects relaying low-frequency sawing noise through the structure.

I've finished the major construction parts of it and just need to do final surface prep and finishing.

The (mostly) finished design.  Nothing is glued yet.

Same as above, but from behind.  Unfortunately the mortise and tenon joints on that back apron are not 100% as solid as they should be.  I'm going to wedge them (where you hammer a little wedge of wood into any gaps) just a little and with that and gluing, it should be plenty strong.  The base will also get more stable once I attach the top.

I'm thrilled with how the koa dovetail keys came out.  These are the first ones that I've ever done and they're as close to perfect as I could have possibly hoped for them to be.  Even the little tiny one didn't have any glaring mistakes or errors.  When I finally get the finish, the contrast between the walnut and koa should be beautiful (or so I hope!).  I can't wait to see what it's going to look like!

Setting the knife wall.  Paul Sellers doesn't use dovetail keys as far as I know, but his methods are applicable throughout lots of different woodworking challenges.  After marking out the key over the split, you trace the outline with a knife and then chisel out (from the waste-wood side) just a little bit of wood.  This gives you a very solid, clean and vertical edge to register your chisel against for going deeper into the wood.  Check out for more information!

Starting to chisel out the waste wood...

Almost finished with that far side...

Waste wood removed, and ready for some cleanup and test-fitting.

Looks like the key fits! This is perhaps deceptive: it did not fit immediately and after the picture above, I probably cleaned all of the lines and bottom for another 30 minutes before I was ready to fully set the key.  One of the things to pay attention to is that you cannot fully test fit the key prior to hammering it in, because if you've done it properly, it's not coming out!

Key is set and glued with a little bit of planing to start leveling it out with the surface of the table

OMG! How did I get so lucky?!  I would've settled for something that looked have decent, but this was just terrific.  Surely the smaller one's not going to come out so well...

Ready for settting.

Set and glued and ready for some planing to level it out with the surface.

No way. Did this one come out great too?  You bet!

Perhaps beginners luck, or just a lot of patience, but I'm so excited these came out so well!  Should last for many many many years to come.

Here are a few more shots of the desk and desk construction:

Halfway through tapering the table legs.  Sawing these is what pulled the noise complaint.

Koa, with it's golden, windy, lustrous grain, may be, quite literally, the most beautiful wood I've ever seen.  It's not something I feel the need to have a house full of, but damn is it pretty magnificent.  This was the piece from which I cut the dovetail keys.

The back, left leg of the desk is FAR from rectangular (intentionally).  This was kinda tricky to figure out and cut, but I managed to get the "open" front of the desk I was hoping for.

These little mahogany clips and those holes in the aprons are how the top will eventually attach to the base.  

Clips sitting in their holes.  This style of clips allows the table-top to swell and shrink a little bit without damaging or bending the base.

One of the "fun" things about working with walnut is that it dyes your hands purple!  I was wearing a glove on my right hand while tapering the legs and ended up with a lovely comparison photo. :-)  It's surprisingly stubborn to get out; it usually takes two or three days for my hands to return to a normal color after working with it.

My right hand had a glove on for most of the night, while the left was all up in some walnut and walnut shavings.  This is actually not that bad for how dark it can get!

Mr. Kitty also had some fun in the humongous pile of shavings that I managed to produce in the process.  

MR KITTY!  He looks super serious for how much fun he was having.

Ah! There are so many more things to talk about, but I'm going to leave it here to go ahead and get this online.  Have a great week everyone!