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Archive for August, 2016

Oh, the Lit. Humanity!

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Blameless Virgil Gnaws the Dust

I have earth-shattering news. I finished The Aeneid.

People who are keeping up know the story. I felt bad about reading almost none of the books on the Lit. Hum. list back when I was “studying” at Columbia, so I downloaded a syllabus and went to work. I slogged through Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and some other crap I am too lazy to list. Then I grounded my hull on Virgil. He’s a terrible writer, and I accidentally bought a translation by an even worse writer; by the time I realized it, I was about 60% of the way through the book. I bought the right translation and started over.

It’s a punishment fit for a mythological character. It’s almost Sisyphean. I refused to read this horrible book when I was supposed to, so I was condemned to read it later; not just once, but 1.6 times. I got the Santayana treatment, to the tune of 60%.

Man, this book stinks. It was agony. With junk like this to deal with, no wonder the ancients took so long to achieve literacy. It must have been extremely unappealing.

Checking the syllabus, I see that my next Herculean labor is Ovid’s Heroides. To show how little I learned at Columbia, I will reveal that I have no idea what the book is about. Maybe it wasn’t on the syllabus in 1902 when I took the course, or maybe it just wasn’t on the list of things I expected to be on the exam. In any case, I know nothing about it, and I kind of wish it could stay that way.

Wikipedia, I summon thee!

The Wiki-Oracle informs me that Ovid was a guy who gave up law to become a poet. Not sure that’s a step upward. He wrote in something called “elegiac meter.”

Here’s a quotation: “An elegiac couplet consists of one line of poetry in dactylic hexameter followed by a line in dactylic pentameter.”

Now I have to look up dactylic whatever.

My God, this is boring.

“The foot is the basic metrical unit that forms part of a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry.”

“A dactyl (Greek: ????????, d├íktylos, ‘finger’) is a foot in poetic meter. In quantitative verse, often used in Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight.”

If a dactyl is three syllables, how can you have dactylic PENTAmeter? “Penta” means “five.”

Oh, okay. I see it now. Dactylic pentameter is apparently fifteen syllables.

How can anybody care about this stuff?

No, I’m wrong about the fifteen syllables. There is apparently a thirty-page book somewhere explaining the rules of dactylic pentameter, and there are lots of variations.

I guess I’m a low-foreheaded potato eater, but I have never understood how meter alone could turn something into verse. When someone reads “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” I totally understand why it’s called poetry, but just screwing with rhythm in unimportant ways only creepy, mildewed academics can perceive is a different matter.

I think haikus are stupid. Is it okay to say that? They’re stupid. Compared to a haiku, a limerick is exciting new technology.

Ordered Sonic fries
She brings me cheese tots instead
Tears in my lime slush

While I was reading The Aeneid, I looked for some evidence that it wasn’t plain old prose, and I gave up. I’m sure it’s in there, but it doesn’t exactly jump out at you or have any detectible positive effect on the reader. You don’t sit there thinking, “Wow! This meter is really clever!” It’s more like, “BOREDOM! BOREDOM! WHEN WILL IT END???? OW, MY HEAD! WHY DID HE WRITE THIS???”

Rhythm is very important to writers. Sometimes a writer’s understanding of rhythm is obvious. One of the neat things about David Mamet is that he has good rhythm. His dialogue bounces along in a very appealing, balanced way. But that doesn’t mean arbitrarily choosing a completely ineffective, rigid rhythmic scheme makes you a great writer. If anything, it makes you self-deluded. A person who gets off on weird rhythmic regimes is missing the point of literature. It’s like thinking your food is good because all the ingredients are autumn colors.

If you want to make clever patterns other strange people notice, my suggestion is to take up needlepoint or maybe drums.

I can already see that Ovid’s rhythmic genius is going to be lost on me. I will just take that as given.

Once Ovid is in the can, I’m out of the Greek mythology ghetto. I can’t wait. The only person I’ve developed any liking for is Herodotus, and that’s only because he isn’t serious. The rest deserve all the bad things that happen to them. The characters and actual human beings in these books are like members of street gangs: they estimate the value of their existence based on the completely unnecessary, narcissistic suffering they inflict on themselves and others. Your son got his head chopped off in battle? Boo hoo! Maybe you should have stayed home instead of sailing off to hit other people with swords.

I didn’t do a calculation, but I’m pretty sure Aeneas lost more men than he took with him. I think he had fourteen ships at the start. What does a Greek ship hold? Say 150 men, tops? By the end of the book, Italy was buried in the rotting corpses of Trojans. One guy–Turnus–killed thousands of Trojans and Tuscans (I think it was Tuscans). Virgil had to be fudging his numbers. My guess is that he wrote the first part of the book, establishing the number of Trojans, and then he got carried away with slaughter in the second half of the book. Then he was too lazy to go back and correct the math. Even Virgil got tired of The Aeneid.

Just a theory.

I should write my own Greek epic and call it The Idiocy. It would be about a bunch of Greeks who got drunk and decided it would be great fun to go burn and pillage someone else’s city, only to find out that war is really unpleasant and lots of people you like die.

Oh, wait. That epic has already been written. Three times.

How could the ancients admire these morons? What kind of infantile morals did they have, to get worked up about which racist rapist murdering crybaby attention-whore thief won which battle?

It goes to show what the world was like before Judaism and Christianity. People had the values of monkeys.

I guess I’ve vented enough about Homer and Virgil. I’m not sure, though. I may have to resume later. I may not be completely purged; I may just be tired.

I’m looking ahead. I only have to read 134 pages of The Inferno. I’m tempted to get down on my knees and thank God, but the little intelligent part of me is screaming, “Who teaches a course and tells you to read a third of a book? What good is that?” For the rest of my life, I’ll have to tell people I read little bits of Dante’s Inferno and then stuck it on a shelf, so I don’t really know what’s in it.

Maybe this course is stupid. I hadn’t really considered that. I considered it back in the Devonian Era, when I was actually in college, but looking back, I thought that was just immaturity. Maybe I was right!

They put Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon on the list. I’m not reading that. It’s just a sop to black people and women. Besides, I already read it. They could have put something really good in that spot, like 1984 or Animal Farm. They didn’t have to struggle to find a black female author and jam her in there in spite of the dubious quality of her work.

Song of Solomon wasn’t in print when I took Lit. Hum., so I give myself a pass. Maybe I’ll give myself Lit. Hum. credit for reading Catch-22, which is a work of real genius.

They stuck Virginia Woolf in there, too. I may blow that off. I haven’t read Lord of the Flies yet. Maybe it will fill the hole. I don’t know anything about Virginia Woolf, but the Burton/Taylor movie was quite depressing.

Apparently, Goethe and Nietzsche have been part of the curriculum in the past. I have no memory of reading either, so I may jam one of them in the Woolf opening. How to choose, though? Wait! I know how! Which one is shorter? Hmm…they’re both around 150 pages. But Goethe’s Faust is a story, not a dreadful philosophy book. I’m a Christian; I already have a philosophy. I don’t need a new one which is necessarily wrong, inferior, and pernicious.

Okay, Faust. That kills Virginia Woolf.

Here’s something interesting! My old Lit. Hum. prof, James R. Russell, moved to Harvard and tried to start a Lit. Hum. knockoff. He has a syllabus, and it’s online. This would be closure, a la mode. I’m trying to relive the course he taught, so what better way to replace Toni Morrison than to make a selection from his list?

Well, this is sad. I looked at the syllabus, and there is nothing from the 20th century in it. I’m apparently on the second semester, and he never did a second semester.

There goes that plan.

I learned some other interesting stuff while Googling Lit. Hum. today. Remember how I said I cheated on a couple of tests at Columbia in order to avoid being expelled? I hate cheating and cheaters, so it really bothered me. Well, it turns out Columbia’s Lit. Hum. system has had other cheating issues. The Columbia wiki site lists THREE, in 1987, 2007, and 2013. In all cases, instructors leaked test questions early. That’s how I cheated, and I believe it also happened in Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization course. I remember a bunch of guys sitting in a room, looking over the exam and frantically flipping through books for answers. I may have cheated in that class, too.

Someone I knew took a test early; his professor was a lady named Lavinia, which happens to be the name of the lady who married Aeneas. The instructor let him keep the test paper, and naturally, it got passed on.

Lots and lots of people cheated on the core courses at Columbia, and instructors helped. Sorry to burst the world’s bubble. It’s Quiz Show all over again, only nobody reads this blog or cares.

I don’t recall ever cheating on anything else in school. I was a mess, and I really did not want to be sent home for failing tests. The pressure was too much. Embarrassing.

I’m going to read Lord of the Flies. That will just have to do. It’s 20th-century. It’s post-war. It’s not a consolation prize for a mediocre writer who belongs to an underrepresented group. It’s not about a bunch of bitter, thwarted cirrhotic Algonquin Round Table rejects getting plastered and making emasculating remarks about each other.

Sold.

I looked over a bunch of other potential works. I’m surprised to see that I’ve read most of them. For a person who more or less gave up on literature at 25, I got a lot done.

Today is a great day. Virgil is behind me. Now to get back to them tasty potatoes and maybe some NASCAR.

More

I felt like I should say a few more things, about cheating at Columbia University, and about Ovid.

When I attended, there were three core courses (that I now recall). One was Contemporary Civilization, and it more or less covered the history of Western thought. The second was Literature Humanities; it covered the history of Western literature. The third was Art Humanities; it covered looking at slides of different types of marble columns. Ionian! Doric! That other kind!

I have a dim memory of attending one or two Art. Hum. classes before making my grand disappearance, but that may be something I dreamed. I seem to remember kouroses.

The big problem with these courses was that every student had to take them, and the exams were standardized. As a result, each course had numerous instructors and sections, and if an idealistic hippie instructor decided grading was a male-exalting, eurocentric concept that tended to inhibit homosexuality and socialist urges, then that instructor could hand the exam out early to take pressure off of his or her students. Those students could, and did, pass them out to students in other sections. This is why cheating was…not unheard of. In fact, the system made it hard to get a fair shake playing it straight.

That covers that.

As for Ovid, when I read his name, I always think “Egg.”

Also, I just started reading his works, and I am happy, happy, happy to report that they are short. Really short. Other than that, I wonder why they were written.

The first one is Penelope’s letter to Odysseus. He is about to come home, kick ass, and take names. Telemachus has already made his voyage to Pylos, and Penelope is really tired of feeding suitors.

I’m sure there is something brilliant about this “poem.” I do not see it. It doesn’t rhyme. It’s not clever. It doesn’t tell us anything new or even a little bit interesting about Odysseus. On top of that, it’s another example of the sick, sad obsession the ancients had with Troy.

If there is something brilliant hidden in it, someone will have to explain it to me. For less than $30,000 a semester.

I looked it up, and Homer was born at some time within a century or so of 1000 B.C. The accepted date for the sacking of Troy is 1270 B.C. Virgil was born in 70 B.C., and Ovid was born in 43 B.C. How long do these people need to get over Troy?

Creativity isn’t that hard. You just say to yourself, “I’m going to come up with something new,” and then you wait. Eventually, an idea will come. It’s not necessary to drag the carcass of Odysseus out over and over for a millennium.

The ancients had the sequel disease; the one that gave us 55 Fast and Furiouses when one was way more than enough. In a thousand years, they could not come up with anything better than Iliad III: the Final Reckoning. Maybe we shouldn’t look down on Hollywood [note: yes we should]. Entire generations of Greeks and Romans were no smarter.

Good news: Heroides short. Bad news: still stuck in 1270 B.C.

If Dante so much as hints at the existence of Troy, I will fly to Italy and desecrate his grave.

The Electric Meatloaf Acid Test

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Food Fit for a Merry Prankster

Last night I finished off the meatloaf and potatoes au gratin I made last week. I still can’t get over the experience.

When you think of great food, meatloaf does not come to mind immediately. When I was a kid, meatloaf was something I ate because it kept me alive. It was okay, but no sane person begged his mother to make it. That has been the way I’ve seen meatloaf all my life. Cheap, easy to make, and good enough to eat without struggling. It’s probably the most pedestrian food on earth that doesn’t come out of a can with an easy-open top.

The meatloaf I made last week, combined with the potatoes, made an astonishing meal. On top of that, it got better while it sat in the fridge. The seasonings mingled. The pepper in the potatoes worked its way through the potato…meat. By the time I finished it off, it had reached a sensual crescendo.

I could not stop eating this stuff. There are some things I just can’t have in the house, and this combination appears to be one of them. I can’t have fun size Snickers bars or miniature Reese’s cups around. I can’t have Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches around. Now I have to add meatloaf and potatoes to the list.

I ate the last of it, and then for at least two hours, I found myself reliving it and exclaiming aloud that it was fantastic.

Yes. I had meatloaf flashbacks. I have PMSD: Post-Meatloaf Stress Disorder.

I felt like I had ingested drugs. I was borderline euphoric. From food.

There is no restaurant on earth that does that for me, but it happens with my own food all the time. I can’t understand it. Last night I sat on the couch, marveling at the strange gift God had given me.

I would be completely happy being an okay cook. I have no family to feed. Even though I make good food, I’m not that picky about what I eat. As far as I can tell, I don’t really need to be able to produce exceptional food. But it happens time and again.

I made meatloaf and potatoes so well, I can’t make it any more. If I make it again, I’ll eat 5,000 calories a day until it’s gone. I don’t have a church to cook for any more. I quit cooking for my friends because I have no wife to help me shop, cook, or clean up. What am I supposed to do with the recipe?

Even worse, I know I can make it a lot better. I’m going to resist trying.

By the way, one of the keys to making the meatloaf work is baking it at 400 for at least half an hour at the end. This creates a thin black crust around it, on the sides and bottom. The flavor this crust provides puts the icing on the cake, so to speak.

It’s too bad I can’t come here and say, “Wow, God made me an incredible composer/musician/singer/mathematical genius/inventor/whatever.” There are things I wish I could do extremely well, and cooking is not one of them. Mozart got perfect pitch, flawless timing, endless musical creativity, and peerless dexterity. I got potatoes au gratin and strawberry cheesecake.

Which I don’t have the metabolism to tolerate.

There must be a reason for it. It’s not so I can open a restaurant. Forget that. I watch restaurant shows all the time, and I am now sure I would rather be struck by lightning every day than supervise the kind of people who cook on lines and wait tables. It’s not so I can sell things I cook. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for people to sue me because they pretended to choke on things I made. I definitely don’t want to run a commercial kitchen where the government will force me to sit through seminars about my legal obligation to encourage my gay employees to get “married.”

I feel like one of the lame superheroes. You know. Like Storm, the X-Woman. Her big gift: making it rain on bad guys. Whoopee. Impressive. “Oooh, I’m scared. Whatever you do, don’t jack up the humidity and make my hair frizz.”

The superhero who makes great cheesecake and ribs will never save the world or get the girl. You can bank on that. He’ll be back at Justice League headquarters, hosing out filthy smokers and inhaling unhealthy quantities of hickory smoke. “Wonder Woman and I are flying back to her island on her invisible jet for a three-week honeymoon with no cell phones. Can you fix us some to-go plates before we abandon you to clean up the kitchen alone?”

You can always pick Food Boy out in group photos, because he wears his cape in the front.

It’s a nice gift to have, but if you know why I received it, you are way ahead of me.

Speaking of food, I guess everyone knows the KFC recipe is now public domain. Colonel Sanders has a nephew, and the nephew found the recipe, written in the Colonel’s handwriting. KFC swears it’s a fake, but sadly for them, people who try it say it’s the real thing. The only missing item is Accent, i.e. monosodium glutamate.

I’m happy about the news, because KFC quit making the real thing a long time ago. They used to fry chicken in beef fat, but the joy-killers got to them and made them switch to something inferior. Probably canola oil, which is like sunflower seed oil that has had a small fish fried in it. Beef fat is loaded with cow flavor, and it’s satisfying. Now that we have the recipe, we can make real KFC at home, with proper fat.

Some people are saying the leaked recipe has too much paprika in it. Paprika is pretty mild. You can probably vary the amount a great deal without hurting anything. If the real KFC recipe has less paprika than the leaked one, it may simply mean that KFC decided to save money by cutting down on a low-impact ingredient.

Here is the recipe:

KFC CHICKEN INGREDIENTS

2/3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil
1/3 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. mustard
4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ginger
3 tsp. white pepper
2 cups flour
MSG
BEEF FAT!!!!

I haven’t tried it. I don’t fry chicken all that well, and I’ve been busy with other stuff. If you try it, I hope you’ll report back. They say you have to fry right at 350 degrees, and you should be aware that KFC uses pressure fryers, so you probably won’t want to go all-out and use the same type of equipment. I can’t figure pressure fryers out anyway. How do you know the chicken is done if you can’t see it?

If I made that stuff, I think I’d replace some of the paprika with chipotle powder. Maybe I’d have to cut back on the white pepper, though.

I don’t feel bad about passing the recipe around, because it was never patented to begin with. It’s a trade secret, not the subject of a patent. Infringing a patent is a statutory tort and a crummy thing to do. Using a trade secret you received legally is fair play!

Now that I think about it, the KFC spice profile would be great on fish. You could use it in a fish and chips recipe. That would rock.

I made pot roast today. First time ever. It’s merely very good, so I think I’m safe.

I’m going to go have some now. If I start to freak, talk me down.

More

Predictably, the pot roast was really good. It would go great with hoe cakes or cornbread.

Might as well post the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

3 lb. chuck roast
3 large (large) red potatoes
2 large yellow onions
1 pound grape tomatoes
1 packet beef flavor onion soup mix
1 lb. carrots (peeled baby carrots are fine)
10 oz. Carlo Rossi Paisano or similar red wine
1 qt. water
olive oil
salt
pepper
1 teaspoon starch

Salt and pepper the meat. Use lots of salt. Fry it in a little oil to brown the outsides. You may have to use high heat with a piece of meat this big.

Pour the wine into a big casserole dish or something similar; it will have to hold the meat and all the vegetables. Add the starch and a teaspoon of salt to the wine. Make sure the starch is stirred in. Put the meat in the wine and sprinkle the soup mix on it.

You could probably double the starch and get a better result than I did.

Bake the meat at 300 degrees for three hours. Slice the onions. Cut the potatoes in big chunks. Add the vegetables to the meat along with the water. Salt the vegetables heavily and then season them with pepper. Cover and bake for another 90 minutes.

You may want to turn the broiler on at the end, uncover the food, and brown it on top.

Check the sauce to make sure it has enough salt in it. If not, add salt and swirl it around to dissolve it. Test again and get it right.

You might want to use 1 1/2 packets of soup mix. It’s very good with one packet, but it might be nice to make it more intense.

Also a possibility: 1 bay leaf in the sauce.

The Real Expendables

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

We are Sifted Every Day

Today I was thinking about the Patton Oswalt clip I probably should not have linked to (“I’m wearing boots of escaping!”), and I thought about his work in movies and on TV. I decided to check Youtube to see what else he had done.

I found a video in which he compares God to an imaginary sphincter that hovers over his head and threatens to devour him if he isn’t good.

The injustice of that comparison is hard to stomach. He is talking about someone who allowed himself to be tortured to death by cretins in order to save bad people from humiliation, disease, and damnation. But Oswalt’s vile, truth-hating mindset isn’t rare. America is filling up with people who literally hate Christianity, and many of them hate God himself.

The audience in the video was disturbing. They squealed with delight as Oswalt piled cruel remarks on God and Christians. They were thrilled to see someone “telling it like it is.” I could sense the release of pent-up anger; someone was telling them it was all right to hate us, and they were enjoying the opportunity to let it out en masse, in a nurturing, approving environment.

A safe space. Safe for some.

As a Christian in America, I grew up feeling that my country was my safe space. I didn’t think I was surrounded by potential persecutors. I knew such people existed, but I certainly didn’t feel outnumbered. I thought of them as harmless nuts who could not get traction. How that has changed. Today you can literally be fired from a job for refusing to say a man is really a woman.

I decided to Google “I hate Christianity” to see what came up. I found people blaming the world’s hatred of Christians on Christians. We’re intolerant. We’re self-righteous. We’re mean. Yes, and Hitler burned Jews because they were pushy and dishonest and ran the German banking system. It wasn’t because Germans and Austrians were vicious racists who wanted scapegoats; that notion was unthinkable, so Germans and Austrians replaced it with their own version of blood guilt.

If you really want to murder someone, you can always come up with a rationale, and no matter how insane it is, you can make yourself believe it.

It doesn’t matter at all what we do, just like it doesn’t matter how much land Jews give to Muslims. We are not hated because of what we do. We are hated because we exist. For that reason, we should stop trying to appease the world. It offends God, and it gives the world power over us.

People who hate God belong to Satan, and they dance to his tune. Satan doesn’t want a truce. He doesn’t want Christians and Jews to be nice, pay for abortions, and leave gays alone. He wants us removed from the planet, along with our remains. When he went after the Jews sixty years ago, he wasn’t content with sending them away and taking what they had “stolen” from Gentiles; he insisted on turning their bones into untraceable dust. Satan wants a world in which no one remembers we were here. That’s why he convinced many Jews to say, “May his name be blotted out forever,” when they referred to Jesus. He didn’t just want Jesus deleted; he wanted the hard drive incinerated so Jesus couldn’t be recovered.

Until fairly recently, I didn’t realize how bad hatred for Christians was. I definitely didn’t realize how much scientists hate us. That makes no sense at all; apart from a few people who want to teach kids creationism, which is a very minor issue, we don’t interfere with science any more. Centuries have passed since a pope threatened to burn Galileo. Atheists have interfered with science relatively recently; the Soviets imprisoned people for accepting scientific conclusions that seemed to conflict with socialist notions. Why didn’t scientists rise up and attack them? Answer: because Satan likes socialism. It would have been pointless for him to send one group of his flying monkeys to attack another.

Earlier this year, I thought it would be fun to replace some of my threadbare T-shirts with shirts related to science and technology, so I looked to see what was available. I was startled to see that sites selling pro-science shirts were full of selections attacking Christianity. The most disturbing shirt I saw featured a cartoon Satan with the caption, “Keep studying science, kiddies.” What on earth was that all about? Are scientists so overwhelmingly against God that a shirt like that has a significant market?

Recently a strange group of people at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) staged a performance in which robed figures appeared to sacrifice a woman to Shiva, a sick demon deity which is part of Hinduism. CERN bigwigs claim it was a joke. No one really knows what happened. No one denies it took place. Imagine how the world would have reacted had we seen movies of Robert Oppenheimer pretending to sacrifice women to false gods at Los Alamos. He would have been placed in a mental institution.

This is not the America I grew up in. It is not the world I grew up in. God is withdrawing, day by day, and Christians can’t accept the fact that they lost the war. We still issue misguided prayers for the salvation of America. We say God is warning us so we can turn back to him. We need to turn back to him, for whatever help is still available, but we’re not being warned. It’s too late to warn us. We got beaten.

Jesus said the world would hate us. We don’t believe it. We think turning away from the world is judgmental and wrong. We think we can never give up on people, even though God does it every day. The world really does hate us. When we were doing well in the US, our enemies tended to keep quiet, so we didn’t know how numerous they were. Now they’re on top, so the closet doors are springing open. The tide was already up to our waists before we knew it was coming in.

All I want is to live in a relatively peaceful place until I am done with this body, which, I hope, will not take very long. I want to mind my own business as much as I can and do whatever God calls me to do, although I don’t know if those goals are compatible. Regardless of how far I retreat, eventually, the tide will reach me, but it can’t hurt to get away from Miami, which is a node of evil, aggression, pride, demon worship, and hate. It’s not Detroit, but it’s pretty bad.

The other day I was thinking about an unstable person I used to be entangled with, and I asked God if this person was going to hell. The answer seemed very clear to me: yes, and there was nothing I could do to change it. It was depressing and sobering. Justice is real; it may be delayed, but it will come. It is indescribably harsh. Whatever this person may have done to me, I do not wish hell on them. But they have chosen their path.

There is no point in making contact or praying for this person. It’s done, and besides, I already tried those things over a prolonged period. The world is full of such people. God knew they would exist, so he created a place in the earth where they could be stored after death, in preparation for the day when they would be removed to the lake of fire. They hate God now; they blame him for everything. They will still hate him and blame him while they burn. There is nothing that can be done. They have to be locked away so they won’t ruin heaven for the rest of us, the way they ruined the earth.

Walk down a city street, and all around you, you will see people who might as well not exist. They are temporary. It seems like a waste of time to acknowledge them. Anything you say to them will be taken to hell. Where you’re going, it will seem as though they had never been created. They will not be remembered. We will not visit them. The world is like an ovary, and people who aren’t saved are like unfertilized eggs that wash out and disappear. Each of us thinks he’s a big deal, saved or not; we can’t conceive of a universe in which we are not important. But to God, we are more like gametes than fully formed beings. We are disposed of, in large numbers, daily.

People love to say we’re all God’s children, but that’s a lie. The Bible doesn’t say that. We are all God’s creations, but not all of us are his children.

It will be interesting to watch the mess unfold over the coming years. I’m glad I won’t be caught up in it.

Sometimes You Need a Good Stiff Belt

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

I Really Needed One More Tool

I did it. I bought a 2×72 belt grinder.

I’ve been wanting one of these things forever, but they’re not cheap, and building one for yourself is a pain and costs nearly as much as buying one. I figured I could live without it. Then I started making knives, and I realized using a small 1×42 grinder was going to make me miserable in the long run.

Actually, it makes me miserable even in the short run.

Truthfully, I am not quite as gung ho about knife-making as I was a week or two ago, but I kept getting the nagging feeling that I needed to do this. I felt like God wanted me to do it for some reason or other, so I gave in. Now that it’s on the way, I hope I use it.

A lot of Christians are involved with knives and guns, not to mention all types of machining and woodworking. Strange. I guess the zombie predictions are coming true; the heathens are busy playing video games, protesting, and fornicating, so they’re not as likely as we are to have shops full of much-needed tools and weapons when everything goes sour. They will probably be visiting us in groups eventually.

A 2×72 grinder is a remarkable thing. If you work metal, there will be many, many times when you’ll need to remove metal from parts in a hurry, and depending on the job, you may need an angle grinder, a mill, a lathe, a band saw, a drill press, a plasma cutter or cutting torch, or a big belt grinder. They’re not interchangeable.

Now that I think about it, I didn’t mention shears. In the metalworking world, “shear” doesn’t just mean scissors. It can mean a heavy machine you operate by jumping on a treadle, to make long cuts in big pieces of sheet metal.

I’ll post a video of someone showing off a belt grinder. If you’re a man, and you have struggled with wimpy tools, you will instantly want one of these things. Spend two days trying to cut a part down with files and a bench grinder, and you may be willing to trade a leg for a belt grinder.

Here’s something really nice about belt grinders: they’re not limited to steel and iron. You’re probably thinking, “Neither is my bench grinder. I grind aluminum on it all the time.” Well, here is bad news: you’re risking a big accident. Non-ferrous metals can accumulate on a bench grinder wheel and melt into it. Then the next time the wheel gets hot, they can expand and make the wheel explode. When that happens, the best possible outcome is that the wheel will be destroyed and you’ll have to take time off to replace it. The worst outcome is that bits of it can penetrate your face. That has actually happened to people.

Another wonderful thing about belt grinders: you can change grits very quickly. It takes about ten seconds. You can go from 24 grit to a cork belt with polishing compound without removing screws or turning nuts. That’s very nice.

There are a lot of grinders available. I decided to try an Oregon Blade Maker. Some guy, presumably in Oregon, started making grinder bodies from heavy steel plate. He welds them together and puts wheels on them. People who use them like them a lot, and the design seems a lot smarter than the stuff the competition puts out. Also, they’re pretty. They come with nice powder-coating.

Best part: not expensive. When you put “well made” and “not expensive” together, you have my attention.

You can drop three grand on a factory grinder. I don’t see where the money goes. It’s not a complicated machine. You make a box with a cavity that holds an arm that holds the contact wheel or platen, and you stick a few wheels on it, plus a tensioned arm that allows you to put slack in the belt in order to remove it. Simple. It’s not a vertical machining center.

People talk about how grinders have to have mass and so forth. I suppose they must know something, but it seems to me they must be exaggerating. You don’t put an engine block on a grinder rest. The grinder doesn’t have to resist tons of force. It’s not like a mill, which has to weigh over a ton in order to get anything done. I started to make a belt grinder from plywood once, and I’m sure it would have worked fine. I am confident that a welded box made from heavy plate will work just fine, and it should be easier to move around than a giant industrial machine.

Let me see if I can find a Youtube of a wooden belt grinder, just to be a troll. I’ll bet I can.

I found one. This guy went a little nuts; he even made wooden wheels. But the grinder works.

He probably died horribly later. Like the old joke about the guy who backed into a sander says, “a horrible end, but a beautiful finish.”

I was all worked up about making a stand for the grinder. Then I realized I already had one. I have a Northern Tool foam cart I use to hold my bench grinder and 1×42 grinder. I am thinking I’ll remove the bench grinder and put it on a Harbor Freight stand. Then I can put both belt grinders on the cart. That will be convenient.

I learned a few things about belts. Most people like 3M and Norton belts. Basic belts come in aluminum oxide and zirconia. Belts made with zirconia cost a little more, but they supposedly last twice as long, so I assume they’re worth it. I rooted around looking for belts I could buy with credit card points, and I found Red Label Abrasives. You can get them at Sears.com. I have never used one, but I saw a lot of glowing reviews, so I took a chance.

Aluminum oxide is harder than zirconium dioxide (zirconia), but zirconia is tougher. Don’t ask me to explain it, but it supposedly makes a better belt.

While we’re on the subject of economics *rationalization cough cough*, big grinding belts are cheaper than little ones. A 2 x 72 belt contains 144 square inches of grit. A 1 x 42 has 42 square inches. That means a 2 x 72 belt gives you 3.43 times as much grit, for a lot less than 3.43 times the money. Big belts and big motors save time and money, apart from the initial expense.

I wish I could use the plasma cutter for knife work, but I’m a little worried about having problems with the steel, as a result of having nearby metal vaporized at 6 million degrees. It might work, though. I suppose what you do before heat-treating steel isn’t that important.

That would be hilarious. Draw a couple of lines on the metal…ZZZZZHHHHTT…ZZZZHHHHTTTT…clang…done.

I will keep the world informed of my progress, if any. I hope this gives you reason to carry on.

Chickens Beware

Friday, August 26th, 2016

I Will Rule You

I’m working on my second knife. I haven’t finished my first knife, but I’m making a second one anyway, because I can save on shipping if I have two knives heat treated at once.

I’ve learned more interesting stuff. Here’s a surprise: Damascus steel is crap.

You may not know what Damascus steel is, so I’ll tell you. It’s a type of folded steel invented in Damascus, Syria. Not. No one is really sure where the name “Damascus” comes from, but it is believed it was invented in India. Probably their last major contribution to technology since perfecting the tech support line.

To make Damascus steel, you take one or more pieces of steel and heat them in a forge. Then you beat on them with a hammer and fold them over. You keep doing this until you have a whole lot of layers. If you do it 20 times, you have 2 to the 20th power layers, which is probably around a million, since it’s 1024 squared.

Damascus steel looks really cool. It looks like damask fabric, as a matter of fact. Don’t know if that’s a coincidence. Oops; I’m wrong. I Googled. The fabric I’m thinking of isn’t damask. Right now it would be helpful to have a gay man I could ask. Anyway, there is a fabric that looks like Damascus steel, and I have no idea what it is.

In any case, Damascus steel is shimmery and weird-looking.

There are lots of mythological claims about Damascus steel. People say it holds an edge like nothing else, and that it’s so flexible you can bend a sword to a ridiculous angle without breaking it. They say it’s the best steel imaginable, and if you stare at it long enough, it cures baldness. In a fight, it’s even better than boots of escaping.

Sadly, none of this is true.

As a famous knife-maker pointed out, if it were true, industry would make heavy use of Damascus instead of the actual amount of use it makes, i.e. none. It would be used for dies and drill bits and cutters. That doesn’t happen. Toolmakers use things like tool steel, which is infinitely better suited to the job.

People have the idea that Japanese swordmakers had all sorts of lost knowledge about steel, and that they used the folding technique to make incredible swords with steel far superior to European steel. In fact, the folding process was needed because Asian steel was crap. Folding distributes or removes the impurities or something.

You have to apply common sense here. We live in the age of men who created the space shuttle. We probably know a few things that were unknown to ancient people who lived on cow manure and their own children.

There are also lots of arguments about what’s “real” Damascus, but it appears pretty certain that we make it as well as the ancients did, and that no important knowledge has been lost.

I’m glad to know this stuff, because now I can write Damascus off my list of things to master. I’ve seen Youtube videos of guys making it in their garages, and I thought, “Well, if I want to make really good knives, some day I’ll have to do that.” I guess I can forget about building a forge. Damascus looks really nice, but it rusts, it’s expensive, and it’s not very good, and I would prefer to make knives that work well. I want the kitchen knives to be dishwasher-safe. I want to be a knife user, not a knife nursemaid.

I found a dude who makes a bustling living charging $1000 or more per knife, and guess what he uses. Good old 440C. He also uses other stuff, but if 440C is good enough for him–ever–then it’s good enough for me. It’s better than Damascus, and it’s certainly better than most of what you will find at Bed Bath & Beyond. And it’s not too expensive.

My second knife is yet another birds beak knife. I didn’t have a lot of steel left to work with, so it had to be something small, and I figured my second design might be better than the first. The outline is mostly done. I still have to sand off the milling marks, make the cutting edge, and drill it for Corby fasteners, which are little metal bolts that go through the scales.

The 1×42 grinder is battling the steel remarkably well, but it probably cuts 10% as fast as a 2×72. The temptation is getting to me. In one week, I could have a 2-HP motor and VFD (already on hand) driving a grinder which would put a contour on a knife in five or ten minutes instead of one to two hours.

I can’t describe the degree to which I envy people who have surface grinders. The milling machine did a great job of removing scale from the second blade, but it left mill marks, so I still have a lot of sanding to do. A surface grinder would have knocked it out in a hurry.

Milling flat, crooked, thin steel is not easy. At least for me. It’s hard to put in a vice or mount in clamps. Properly, I mean. You can mount it in ten seconds, but getting the waves out of it is a problem. When I was done milling, I had a piece of steel that was still wavy, and the mill went to different depths on different passes, so it left me plenty of work to be done by hand.

You can clamp crooked steel down and mill it flat on top, but then when you flip it to mill the other side, it can bounce back into its crooked shape. If you manage to mill both sides flat and parallel, it may still be slightly bent when you take the clamps off. It’s annoying.

A knife doesn’t have to be laser-straight, but it should look and feel straight when you use it.

I haven’t decided whether I want to keep doing this. It’s easy and fun, but simple jobs tend to become boring with time.

In any case, I should have some really excellent kitchen knives pretty soon, and I may get ambitious and make myself a nice folder. I was even thinking I might take my Gerber Gator II apart, throw the soft 420 stainless blade out, and replace it with 440C. I like the handle.

If I feel like it, I can even etch a trademark and other stuff into blades. There’s a little inexpensive machine out there that allows you to print stencils for etching. That sure beats hammering my initials into it with lettering punches.

If this looks interesting to you, consider getting a big belt grinder. Learn from my suffering.

I’ll post a photo of the latest blade so you can say charitable things about it.

08 21 2016 birds beak knife drilled small

I Sing of Firearms and a Paperback

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

PULL!

I am still plugging away at The Aeneid. It’s like having a disease that goes into remission and comes back, over and over. It’s the herpes of literature.

I am around 60% of the way through it. I started the Mandelbaum translation over at the beginning because the Mackail translation I bought by mistake was so bad.

The boredom is crushing. Yesterday Virgil pulled one of the classics-author moves I hate the worst: he listed everyone who was going into a battle.

Do we really need this information? Do we really need to know that Warrior Queen Frisbee marched to war accompanied by columns of short-haired women who secretly dreamed of being police officers? Do we really need to know that King Phlebitis of Hydrangea wore the lionskin his grandfather Uvulus stole from the lair of Buttafuocus the Thracian Balrog? No, we do not. Not all details are essential, and that goes double when you’re making it all up.

Virgil is an astoundingly bad writer, and I don’t give him a pass. Sure, he lived a long time ago, but he didn’t invent writing. He had read works by other people. He had heard people tell stories orally. He knew what boredom and clumsy pacing were. He had Homer to learn from. He could have avoided Homer’s mistakes, but he decided to repeat them.

A week or so ago, I was inclined to forgive Virgil and look for the good in his work, but now I just want to smack him.

How do classics scholars stand their lives? I guess it’s not that bad once you’ve read everything in the catalog. It’s not like new classics are popping up every month.

I can understand why people became classics scholars decades ago. They were afraid of Vietnam and Korea. They had to stay in school in order to keep their draft deferments, and not everyone is smart enough or talented enough to get into something like engineering or music. If the alternative to reading Virgil were running around the jungle dodging bouncing Bettys and punji sticks, I guess Virgil would look pretty good. But how can people force themselves to study this stuff when the alternative is…a normal life doing something relatively interesting?

At the moment, Aeneas is about to go to war with the Italians. His ridiculous, childish gods are behind it. Zeus wants to help him, but Zeus doesn’t wear the pants on Olympus. His wife Juno is doing her best to get Aeneas killed. She has stirred the Italians up against him, hoping they’ll take him for a ride and fit him with a cement toga. She wants him whacked.

What is the point in worshiping these idiots if they’re just going to make you more miserable? It’s a complete ripoff. You can’t make them happy. If one of them likes you, the others hate you. They need family therapy, but they’re working their issues out on the Greeks instead.

Let’s give the real God his due; if he’s on your side, everyone in heaven is on your side. He doesn’t have a crazy wife who runs around behind his back, messing with the people he loves. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Satan. The devil is basically the Glenn Close character from Fatal Attraction, played by Liberace.

Shakespeare said hell had no fury like a woman scorned. He was wrong. That’s exactly the kind of fury it has. If Satan were a human woman, he’d be vandalizing our cars and calling us at work a hundred times a day. His apartment would be full of group photos with God’s face torn out of them.

No one is crazier or more tenacious than a jilted woman. They never show mercy, and they have no shame. It doesn’t bother them that their campaigns of vengeance make them socially radioactive and ridiculous.

I’m surprised a woman didn’t invent the suicide vest.

Aeneas doesn’t need Jupiter to help him conquer Rome. He needs Jupiter to slap his wife down. She’s a walking reality series. She should be tied to a rock with Prometheus, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Okay. I feel a little better now.

I have Ovid on deck, and my copy of The Inferno is also ready when I need it. I don’t know what these books are like, but if they’re more entertaining than the phone book, they’ll be a big move up from Virgil.

No wonder I didn’t finish this stuff when I was in college. I forgive myself. I wonder if the serious students actually read this junk. Barack Obama and George Stephanopoulos were major grubs at Columbia; they were both in my class. I wonder if they read these books.

Maybe Obama read the books, and that’s the reason no one remembers him. He was in either the library or a padded room.

I think I may become the only person in history to complete the reading. I’ll bet the professors only read the Cliff’s Notes. Who would know the difference?

It’s too bad I didn’t realize the liberal arts weren’t for me. I thought high verbal test scores and some writing talent meant I had to take literature and writing courses. That was stupid.

I guess I did realize it, because I became a biology major the year before the deans and I agreed it was best I take a year off. But my family was driving me insane, and I had no study ethic to begin with, so that effort crashed and burned. Oh, well. It would have been nice to get into something I actually liked.

This experience is like the two years I spent learning salsa. I felt like a social failure because I hated to dance, so I took lessons, went to clubs, and even wrote extensive instructions. When it was over, I still didn’t care for dancing. I’m glad I’ll never have to do it again. I’m spending months reading the classics, and when I’m done, I will have conclusive proof that the classics are not my cup of nectar.

Maybe the brush I paint with is too broad; I don’t hate all old books. I like Voltaire, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Racine, Francois Villon, Marot, Moliere…it’s mainly the Greeks and Romans that make me want to carve an escape hatch into my skin from the inside.

I don’t like Dickens much. Windy. As I understand it, at least some of his works were published piecemeal in newspapers, so he had ample motivation to prolong them. Also, his work is depressing.

When I get done with Virgil, I may throw a party. Now that I think about it, it may take me so long that when I finish, Carnaval will be underway in Brazil. I could just hop on a plane. I wonder where I can get a giant papier-mache head around here.

Do not read Virgil. Okay, that was over the top. Read it once and then put it in your attic. It’s not entertaining. It’s not illuminating. You will not enjoy it. Get it done and move on.

I’m going to go take some Advil now.

Meet…Loaf

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

It is my Defeated Foe

I think I really have meatloaf under control, so I’ll share the recipe.

I made a strange choice. I added seafood stock to the meat. I figured it would have more flavor than beef broth, and I was right, but if it sounds weird, try chicken stock. Whatever you do, don’t add beef stock. You already have beef flavor.

This is for a big loaf intended to help me avoid cooking all week. You should probably halve it.

INGREDIENTS

3 lbs. hamburger or ground chuck
1 lb. pork
2 eggs
12 ounces seafoof stock or chicken broth
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup Heinz 57
1-2 tbsp. Worcestershire
3 tbsp. melted butter (seriously)
1 large onion, diced, fried in 3 tbsp. butter until the chunks start to clear
1 packet onion soup mix, beef flavor

Mix it up and form it into a loaf. I am not totally clear on the best cooking method. so I formed the loaf on a sheet of nonstick foil on a cutting board and then slid it onto a broiler pan. The slits in the pan let the excess grease escape.

Bake at 350 until the internal temperature breaks 120. Smear the top of the loaf with a mixture of 3 parts ketchup and 1 part Heinz 57. Bake until the temperature breaks 150. Let the loaf sit for a few minutes. Slice and serve.

It’s really good. It’s fairly light, and it’s not dry at all.

I made a vat of potatoes au gratin as well, and they were wonderful. Perhaps too good for my health.

I guess I can give you that recipe. I accidentally failed to peel one potato, and it didn’t hurt anything, so I may skip peeling in the future.

INGREDIENTS

4 baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut in 1/4″ slices
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
1 package bleu cheese, about 6 ounces (my guess)
1 wedge Parmesan cheese, whatever the normal grocery size is
6 cups half and half or 4 cups milk and 2 cups cream
6 tbsp. flour
5 tsp. pepper
1.5 tbsp. salt
8 tbsp. butter
6 egg yolks
1 medium onion, diced

Let’s see if I remember this.

Beat the egg yolks into the milk or cream or whatever with a mixer. You want them completely blended in so they don’t act weird when they’re heated.

Fry the flour in the butter for a few minutes. Don’t burn it. Pour the egg/milk mixture in and stir it while heating, to make a roux. Throw the salt, pepper, and cheese in. Stir to get it all blended.

Fry the onion in 2 tbsp. of butter until it starts to clear.

Mix everything but the potatoes up and let it simmer.

In a huge dish (gallon or more), arrange about half of the potato slices in a layer. Dump half of the sauce on them. Add the other half of the potatoes and the rest of the sauce.

Bake at 350 for 90 minutes. Remove the lid, remove excess grease if needed, and bake without lid at 400 degrees for 20 more minutes.

Toss 1 cup panko bread crumbs with 2 tbsp. butter, plus salt and pepper. Cover the top of the potatoes with this and bake for 10 more minutes. If you want, mix cheese into the crumbs. The crumb layer will help soak up grease that floats on top of the dish.

This was excellent, and the little semi-burned bits of the dish add lots of flavor.

The Scale of Injustice

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

I Saved Two Bucks

My sixth sense tells me people are dying to know how my knife-making efforts are going. Fear not. Relief is at hand.

Here’s a photo of the knife I”m making. Again, as if you hadn’t memorized every detail, this is a birds beak paring knife, but it’s actually a poultry-boning knife. I like birds beak knives for boning poultry.

08 21 2016 birds beak knife with edge formed and buffed small

The steel is 440C, which is a very nice grade of stainless. It’s a lot better than the crap many manufacturers are putting in their knives these days.

Let’s see. Where to start.

Scale.

Scale is oxidized metal. If metal is processed at high temperatures, scale forms on it. If the scale is on the metal when it comes from the steel mill, it’s called “mill scale.” It’s harder than metal, so removing it is a real pain. It can dull cutting bits, and it’s hard on abrasives. You can buy metal with the scale removed, but I saw that this was a silly waste of money, so I saved two dollars and got the scaly stuff, and I’m spending the last two weeks of August removing the crud. I am a smart shopper. Clearly.

I have people trying to tell me stainless steel doesn’t have scale. Yeah, okay. Everyone in the steel business disagrees with you, and I have scaly steel right here in my house, but…okay.

I shaped my knife, and then I used abrasives to get most of the scale off, but the last bits are the hardest to remove. On top of that, the steel bar I bought is wavy, so you have to sand the high spots off before the scale in the low spots starts to move. I would guess that the dips in the metal are only a thousandth or two deep, but that’s a lot when you’re removing metal from relatively hard steel using a sharpening stone and elbow grease.

I can tell the steel is wavy because wherever there is scale on one side of the blade, indicating a low spot, there is bare metal on the other side, indicating a high spot. Think about it, and you will understand.

I figured I was too smart to let this problem slow me down. I Googled for answers. I read that vinegar takes scale off. Maybe that’s true for carbon steel. I don’t know. It did virtually nothing for 440C.

The next step: electrolysis. I put baking soda in a container of water, and I connected a steel anode and the blade to a battery charger. After several hours, I had a layer of green stuff in the water, plus some rust, but I hadn’t made much progress.

It occurred to me that the green stuff might be a chromium compound. Chromium is found in green pigments. I figured that meant something was happening, but it wasn’t getting the job done.

I wondered why other people weren’t using electrolysis, and then it occurred to me that I might be making something poisonous. I looked chromium up and learned that there is a horrible poison called hexavalent chromium. Apparently you can get cancer just from reading about it (sorry). I hope I didn’t make that.

It didn’t taste too bad.

I considered supergluing the steel to something so I could mount it on the lathe chuck. That would allow me to face the crap off. Then I pictured the blade coming loose at 500 RPM’s. I considered trying the same strategy in the mill.

In the end, I went back to the drill press and sanding drum, along with the diamond sharpening stone. Tedious, but guaranteed to work.

You can remove scale with a belt grinder, but a belt grinder will shape the blade as it grinds. At the very least, it will round it at the edges. I plan to glue micarta scales to this thing. If the steel’s edges are rounded, there will be gaps between the micarta and the steel. It looks like you have to descale the knife before establishing the final contour. Then you can shape it to fit the handle scales. I did not do this.

It occurred to me that reducing the area of the steel touching the abrasive would shorten the descaling time, so I fired up the belt grinder–with trepidation–and started shaping the concave edge I foolishly designed into the knife. A concave edge is harder to grind than a convex or straight edge. I realized that after I was committed to the job.

Grinding went really, really badly. At first. I had no idea what I was doing. I hacked and gouged the steel. I started to think I was ruining it. After a while, though, bits of skill began to materialize somewhere inside me. By the time I was done, I had something that looked very good. I moved to a finer belt, and then I buffed parts of the blade with my 25,000-RPM dental lathe.

It’s not done yet, but I have less metal to finish now. Once every last corrosion pit is gone, I’m going to buff everything that will stick out past the handles, drill the knife for rods to hold the bolsters, drill it for fasteners to hold the scales on, and ship it off to be heat-treated. Sweet.

I can do this. If my first knife looks this good, the knives I’ll make two months from now will be nearly perfect.

I keep learning things. Today I learned that polished knives rust less than shiny ones. The scratches provide more surface area and more places where rust can take hold. That’s not an issue with 440C, but it’s good to know for future knives.

I also learned that 154CM is just as good as 440C, so if I can’t find 440C, I can order 154CM. It’s not exactly the same, but the pluses and minuses balance out to where I would be just as happy with it.

Another bonus: you can make knife-making pay for itself. Most hobbies don’t work that way. It’s very hard to make a living selling handmade knives, but it’s not hard at all to pay for your tools and materials, plus, possibly, beer. Nice.

The disappointing thing is that you can’t make real money at this. The well-known makers who attract drooling mobs of toadies at knife shows are generally either retired or dependent on their wives. That sucks some of the macho out of the business.

“This is my 14-inch cryo-treated 1,000,000-layer Damascus ‘Fang o’ Death II.’ I wanted to make it 18 inches, but Martha wouldn’t give me an advance on my allowance.”

Before I got started on this, I felt bad about having a small 1×42 grinder. It’s pretty slow for shaping things. But now I realize it’s a fantastic knife-making tool, because it can get into places better than a 2×72. If you have both sizes, you’re cooking with gas.

I still have enough scaly steel to make a second knife. I guess I’ll come up with something.

News will be posted here as it occurs.

More

Here’s the latest. The metal is cleaned up about as well as I intend to get it, and I’ve drilled holes for bolster pins and Corby bolts. As you surely know, Corby bolts are fasteners that hold handle scales on.

It’s about time to mail this thing off for hardening.

08 21 2016 birds beak knife drilled small

Flagged for Removal

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Narrative Hits a Major Speed Bump

Today I’m thinking about the Nate Parker/Jean Celestin rape scandal.

There is a new movie called Birth of a Nation. The title is taken from an old D.W. Griffith movie which portrayed the Klan as a noble organization. I haven’t seen the original movie; I would guess that almost no one alive has. I don’t really know what’s in it. The movie is extremely long, and it’s not exactly popular. In the minds of the public, renting this movie would be like checking Mein Kampf out of the library.

The new movie is about the Nat Turner rebellion, about which I know little. A slave named Nat Turner decided that God had told him to rise up against white people, so he led a revolt in which slaves killed white people indiscriminately. Turner himself killed a woman by slugging her with a fence post. I’m all for slaves running away, using violence and theft if necessary, but going from farm to farm murdering women and children for pleasure isn’t emancipation; it’s just sadism.

The new movie was written by two young black men, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin. They are former Penn State wrestlers. In 1999, they had sex with a woman who was so drunk she was unconscious at least part of the time. They invited others to participate. Both were indicted for rape, and Celestin was convicted and spent six months in jail. Celestin appealed, and he was granted a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The victim refused to testify again, and the prosecutor dropped the case. Celestin has since claimed that he was “fully exonerated,” which is not an accurate way to describe what happened.

The victim was an honor student who went to college a year early. After the rape, she dropped out. She became a drug addict. She killed herself.

The bizarre thing about this is that Parker used an extremely self-righteous, insulting image to promote his movie. It’s a photo of his face in a noose made from the American flag. The message it appears to send, which may or may not be the intended victim, is that young black men are victims in America. Coming from a highly successful film director who got a free ride to college and then avoided conviction for gang-raping a white woman, that’s a little hard to stomach.

When I say “rape,” I am not saying he was convicted or that he can legally be referred to as a person who committed the crime of rape. I am saying that what he and Celestin did was rape under the common-sense dictionary definition. He had sex with someone who couldn’t consent because she was extremely drunk. Without real consent, in my mind, sex is rape, whether or not it satisfies the legal definition.

The perpetrators don’t deny that they penetrated the victim over and over–simultaneously–or that she was very drunk.

A lot of people are surely getting caught up in the legal niceties right now, and they are surely trying to make a case that what these men did wasn’t rape, but that draws attention away from the plain facts. They shared the body of a young woman who had consumed something like 13 shots of alcohol, and after the fact, they made her miserable by hiring a detective who posted pictures of her photo all over campus.

Can you support a person like that just because he wasn’t convicted, or because his conviction was reversed?

Rape is a strange crime, because it has levels and nuances. If you have sex with your wife twice in one in one night, consensually, and then during the third effort she withdraws her consent and you don’t comply immediately, that’s rape. It’s also rape if a bum grabs you off the sidewalk and violates you beside a dumpster. There are lots of shades in between these examples. Realistically, you can’t equate all rapists. The damage they do varies.

What Parker and Celestin did was unusually sick. The victim was barely conscious, and Parker went ahead anyway. That’s very bad. Then he invited his friends, as if her body were a pizza he wanted to share. That’s horrendous; inviting another man to violate a woman who barely knows him is vile. Then the victim was shamed publicly, as though she had committed a crime. That’s beyond the pale.

It’s disturbing that two men like this could be paid and lauded for making a movie which appears to be the latest in a series of race-baiting, anti-white films. It’s ironic that the poster depicts lynching. Many black men who were lynched in America were murdered because it was believed they had insulted or defiled white women. Now we have a director and screenwriter who fit that description, literally, and they’re using lynching imagery to make money.

It’s almost as if Satan is telling non-black America, “Look. You were right about them.”

Racial tension is out of control in America. I think Satan is poking both sides to stir things up. I think this movie and the scandal are parts of it. It’s polarizing.

Satan is doing a fantastic job on leftists and blacks. Black Lives Matters rioters just tore up Milwaukee over a case in which a black cop shot an armed black man who was clearly threatening him with a gun. They’re proving what most of us have suspected for a while: it’s not about police brutality. A justified shooting is still a good rationale for looting and violence. A large percentage of the “protesters” are just looking for an excuse to do evil to their neighbors.

Non-blacks are likely to use this senseless aggression as an excuse for anti-black racism. Even the least racist among us are likely to make changes in our behavior. This is not a good time to move to an area with a lot of black residents; who could be blamed for trying to locate elsewhere? It’s a scary time to reach out to black people and socialize with them in places where you’re outnumbered.

There are some types of race-motivated behavior you can control with laws. You can ban discrimination in hiring and selling, to some extent. There are also things you can’t control with laws. You can’t force white people to have black friends, or vice-versa. You can’t force people of one race to buy from people of another race. If things keep going the way they are, blacks and whites are going to segregate themselves in whatever ways are still legal. We’ve already seen black students advertising for “POC only” roommates, claiming the stress of living with whites is intolerable.

We should be building bridges. Instead, whites are on the receiving end of constant, open, unjustified criticism and rejection, and I guarantee you, they will retaliate silently. When whites can strike back without accountability, many do so. Look at the increase in racist Internet comments.

This mess is going to hurt black people. It won’t damage the rest of us that much. It won’t make people reluctant to hire us or associate with us. It won’t hurt our businesses. It will make it harder for black people to assimilate and succeed.

I don’t think there’s much hope for people who don’t serve God. For the rest of us, the answer is clear: identify with God’s family, not a race or nationality. If you’re a child of God, other children of God are your relatives and your race. Other people may look like you, but they’re against you.

Americans are flipping out over whether this person has the right to wear dreadlocks or that person has the right to rap. We ought to be concerned about aligning our hearts with God’s. Any two people whose hearts are aligned by God’s heart will live in agreement and peace. Discord is proof that something is wrong. God doesn’t fight with himself. His house is not divided. If we’re at each other’s throats, we’re not really of his house.

I don’t like the race-baiting movies. I don’t like the scary anti-black Internet comments. I don’t like the way we’re being censored by left-wing extremists. I think it will continue and get worse, though. The only hope of rising above it is submission to God.

Blades of Glory

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

No Turkey is Safe

I feel like I may have finally found my niche in the metalworking world. Today I roughed out my first knife, and it was easy.

Here’s a photo.

08 18 16 birds beak knife roughed in 440C

If you’re wondering why anyone would want a knife that looks like that, I can explain. I like to bone turkeys before roasting them. It makes a world of difference. After you’ve eaten boneless turkey, you won’t want a regular turkey. It’s totally inferior. This knife is designed to bone poultry.

I ordinarily use a birds beak paring knife to bone birds. I bought two pricey Japanese jobs, and all they did was contribute to my belief that Japanese knives are not very useful. I bought two $5 Forschners with plastic handles. They worked very well. But they’re flimsy.

I also have a specially designed harumigatodokutaka, or something that sounds like that. It’s a Japanese knife created for boning poultry. It’s worthless. I can’t understand how anyone manages to bone a bird with one without going to the hospital.

This thing is 1/8″ 440C steel, which is, truthfully, a little thicker than I need it to be. I wanted something sturdy, because when you bone a turkey, you need to get between the bones and pry. It will have the short blade and hook shape of a birds beak knife, and it will be strong enough to survive a stubborn turkey.

It looks grey because it has scale on it. When you heat steel, it oxidizes. Black iron oxide forms on the outside. When the metal cools, the oxide sticks, and it’s called scale. It’s harder than steel. You have to get rid of it (at least on the exposed areas of the knife) as part of the knife-making process.

I removed a lot of the scale using a sanding drum on the drill press. I also tried a 12″ diamond stone. I don’t know what the answer is yet. I think most knife makers just scrub the crud off on a 2×72 belt grinder, but I do not have one of those, and I’m worried that if I used one on future knives, I’ll screw up the dimensions of the knives by taking off metal.

Making this knife was very easy. No challenge at all.

I drew a design, and then I photocopied it. I put the copy on the metal bar I was using for stock. I glued it with 3M Super 77. I put the steel in my bench vise and used an angle grinder and cutting disk to start roughing it. The metal got very hot, so I was concerned I might harden it by accident.

Then I fired up my souped-up 1×42 belt grinder with a 60-grit belt (too fine for the job). It worked very well, considering the inadequacy of the grit, but it was pretty slow, and the belt is about 50% dead already.

I put the steel on the mill and tried milling off the waste, but the steel got hot again, and I had visions of myself trying to machine hardened 440C, so I quit.

I decided to put a grinding wheel on the grinder and try that. Everything fell into place. It removed metal much faster than the belt grinder, it didn’t get the metal too hot, and it was easy to control.

After that I kept moving around among the angle grinder, the belt grinder, the drill press and sanding drum, and my 25,000-RPM Themac dental lathe. I guess I put in an hour and a half.

The finished knife is a little different from the drawing. I made changes on the fly. But it’s beautiful. You can’t see the edges in the photo, but they’re finished like a factory knife’s edges. It’s really something.

Tomorrow I have to clean off the scale, hollow the blade out, put the beginnings of an edge on it, drill for screws, put two 416 stainless bolsters on it (which I will have to fabricate) and attach and shape a micarta handle. Then I have to disassemble it and send the steel to a company that will heat treat it for me.

Then it comes back, and I have to clean it up and put it together. After that, I sharpen it. I’ll have a cool poulty knife that ought to kick the crap out of anything you can buy anywhere.

Micarta is plastic with fabric imbedded in it. It makes good handles, and I am hoping it will be dishwasher-safe. If it weren’t for my desire to use the dishwasher, I would have bought a natural handle material that looks better.

Yes, I will be putting a handmade knife in the dishwasher. Deal with it.

If I had known knifemaking was this easy, I would have started 30 years ago. If I had had a big belt grinder, this would have taken half an hour. If I had had a big belt grinder with a few special attachments, it would have taken 15 minutes. You could make three decent knives a day if you had the right tools.

I suppose it’s even faster than that if you’re using steel thinner than the 1/8″ stuff I used. If I made a chef knife, I’d want something like 3/32″.

A 440C cleaver! That’s what I need!

Forget store bought kitchen knives. They’re almost always deficient in some way or other. Well, maybe that’s not true. I like my cheap Forschner and Mundial chef knives. But other than that, it seems like every knife is a compromise. Not any more!

When I get this thing mocked up, I’ll post a photo. When I get it treated, I may actually have to buy a turkey.

Grow up and Win

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Excuses are Poison

I got a great revelation today.

For a long time now, God has been teaching me that growth, not money or healing, is what Christianity is all about. God is a father, and he wants what every father wants: children who function correctly. Think about it, if you have kids. Do you sit around worrying that they won’t be rich? No. You worry that they’ll be dysfunctional idiots who end up on jail, dead, or on welfare. You worry that they’ll become bad people who can’t thrive and do good. God has the same concerns.

Correction is literally better than gold. There are a lot of disgusting, stupid, disgraceful people who have wealth. There are very few people who have their heads on straight.

God has shown me that my problems are generally my own fault. Even if someone else sins against me, I opened the door. People who conform to God’s design win their battles. If you’re a loser, God is not backing you up, and there’s a very good reason for that.

It sounds harsh. It is harsh. That doesn’t matter. It’s the truth, and you can’t change it. You have to work with the truth if you expect to succeed. You don’t make the rules of the universe. The sooner you accept responsibility for your problems, the sooner you will beat them.

I created my own enemies. I opened the door. I fed them. I bent the knee to them and thanked them for abusing me. People and spirits that might have had no interest in me at all but for my participation showed up in my life and abused me, and that’s on me. It’s also on them, but that shouldn’t matter to me. At judgment, God is not going to ask me about their sins. Not once.

When kids fight and their parents wade in, often one kid will say, “He started it.” Lazy parents don’t care who started it. They just care about shutting down the noise so they can flop back on the couch and watch Snooki. They say it doesn’t matter who started it. In reality, it matters. If you start a problem, you are primarily responsible. You start most of your own problems.

I knew all that. I also knew that the New Testament was different from the Old Testament in that Jesus criticized people’s attitudes as well as their actions and words. In the Old Testament, you just had to obey. That’s not good enough for Jesus. He criticized men for committing adultery in their hearts.

Is it fair to criticize people for things they merely want to do? Yes. If the Holy Spirit is available to change them, and they haven’t taken him up on it. Under the new covenant, we have access to the Holy Spirit, in a way that wasn’t available before the crucifixion. We are supposed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and we are supposed to pray in tongues and subdue our flesh and our minds. So yes, Jesus was not out of line when he criticized our desires.

When you put all this together, you get the revelation God gave me today: we are held accountable for our inclinations.

We are held accountable for our inclinations.

That sounds discouraging, if you have no faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability and willingness to change your heart. If you have that faith, then it’s an open door. It’s one of the greatest messages you’ll ever hear.

Jesus said he came to set the captives free. The Jews thought he was talking about kicking the Romans out. Christians think he only meant he was freeing people from hell. He wasn’t concerned about the Romans, because the rebellion of the Jews put them in place. He was referring to salvation from hell, but that’s not all he was referring to. He was referring to freedom from sinful inclinations and compulsions.

Paul talks about this. He says we are slaves to sin. We give up our free will through rebellion, and we become unable to do right. Powerful inclinations fill us, and we can’t resist them.

The Holy Spirit can undo that. This is what we should focus on, instead of pretending God will give us money for supporting embarrassing, heartless imbecile preachers with helicopters and palaces.

God does not hold people accountable for things over which they have no power. Because he holds us accountable for our inclinations, we know we have power over them through the Holy Spirit. We should be taking it upon ourselves to avail ourselves of his help, but we’re too busy not judging and pretending to love each other more than we really do.

Jesus said no man born of woman was greater than John the Baptist, but he also said he that was least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John. That’s because Pentecost hadn’t come in John’s time. John had to fight using his own power. The Holy Spirit didn’t live in him around the clock, cleaning and restructuring. We live under a different set of principles. We have power John didn’t have, and because we don’t use it, we live in defeat.

I try to do what is right, but because I see and hear my own thoughts, I know I’m still filthy inside. Some things are fixed. There are other things I have to cope with through willpower, and I fail from time to time. The knowledge that God wants to fix my remaining issues is a huge relief.

Here is what Satan says, through Christians: “You’re so judgmental. You’re going to drive people away. Who are you to say these things?” I hear it all the time. Most Christians in the US love sin and spiritual laziness. They don’t want to change, and they love excuses. They love attacking anyone who gives them good advice. The Jews in the time of Jesus were the same way. It’s why they had him killed. It’s why they murdered the prophets with their own hands.

You can have your excuses or you can have victory and peace.

If you want your life to improve, focus on getting your heart and mind fixed. Otherwise, you’re just making things worse. You’re coating yourself with a bulletproof crust of denial, and you will wear it until you die.

Think about this, and put it to work. Stop sending money to vampires with cable TV shows. Give up your bitterness toward God, and stop blaming him for your suffering. Stop blaming other people. Close the door, and get God to clean your house. Confess everything you can think of.

This is the plan we gave up during the Dark Ages. It’s still on the table. You just have to choose it.

Don’t Consider the Air

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Consider the Balloon

During prayer today I had a very simple revelation, and I was glad to get it, so I’m bringing it here.

I’m always talking about the way America has become the tail and not the head (if you don’t know what that means, open a Bible once in a while). People who used to run from us now have us on the run. Things are upside down. Citizens of other countries come here and push us around and vote in our elections. Sexual deviants get us fired from jobs or have our businesses closed down. Losers and criminals hold “protests” which are really excuses for racist crimes and looting, and we bend the knee and apologize.

We don’t have God’s favor any more.

I think about this principal a lot, in relation to my own life. The closer I get to God, the more problems fall away from me. People who used to drive me crazy are removed from my circle. Problems I couldn’t beat disappear. What’s happening to me is the opposite of what’s happening to my country.

Here is one of the worst forms of defeat: debt. It’s slavery. If you don’t believe it, check the Bible: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” The word translated “servant” in the KJV means “household slave,” but if you disagree, well, isn’t “servant” bad enough?

When you borrow, you take things you haven’t earned. That means you have to keep working in order to pay for them. A person who has no debt can walk off his job in an instant, singing a Johnny Paycheck tune on the way out. A debtor has to take all sorts of abuse, and he may be pressured to do immoral or distasteful things in order to hold onto his position.

A slave is a person who doesn’t have the leverage to quit or say no. A debtor is no different. They are prisoners without cages.

Americans don’t see it that way. They think, “Wow, I have a new bass boat and a 300-inch TV so I can watch the Kardashians!” They don’t think about slavery.

I considered marrying a debtor. I must have been having a psychotic episode. I never thought to check. I was stupid. I was willing to walk into a bear trap, blindfolded.

If I had married a slave, I would have become a slave. Her debts would have been on my back, instantly.

Slavery is a funny thing; it’s like electricity. If you make contact with another person, it may run from them into you.

I don’t borrow. I would rather have a $15000 car and pay cash than drive a Mercedes that belongs to someone else. I have no interest in leasing, either. Freedom is too important to me. It may be questionable financial practice, but I have no regrets.

This week I saw a website saying Obama had jacked our collective debt up to $19 trillion. That’s debt we all have, whether we agreed to it individually or not. We owe China. We owe other nations. We even owe ourselves; we have a bizarre system in which we allow ourselves to buy our own debt, with imaginary money.

We are a nation of slaves. That’s the revelation God gave me.

Borrowing unnecessarily is a bad thing. It puffs you up and makes you think you’re a bigger deal than you are. Our roads are full of cars driven by people who can’t afford them. A big car with a note on it makes you look blessed, but to get it, you have to put a curse on yourself.

Borrowing is a way of cursing yourself in order to fake a blessing.

The Bible says God brings wealth without remorse. Here is Proverbs 10:22: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.” If you’re borrowing in order to look successful, expect sorrow.

Every so often, I see a nice car on the back of a Jerr-Dan truck. It was more common back when the stock market crashed. I’m sure one or two of those cars had mechanical problems, but usually, a nice car on the back of a truck is a repo. Someone couldn’t pay his bills, and the real owner took the car back, in front of the neighbors. That’s what will happen at judgment. A lot of people–especially prosperity preachers–will come before God with pride and thick resumes, and God will put their ill-gotten trinkets on his truck and take them away. Metaphorically.

That’s no way to live.

America is sitting on a pile of wealth it can’t pay for. Sooner or later, there will be a bill. Then we’ll find out how well our new economics really works.

A funny thing about debt is that it makes you feel better…until it makes you feel worse. It makes you weak, but it makes you look and feel strong. We’re already poor. We only lack the appearance of poverty. That encourages us to keep borrowing.

Here is how the universe works: every once in a while, a servant who hates his position and has no patience overthrows his master, takes what he has, and stands on top of him crowing like an idiot. Then order reasserts itself, the master is restored, and the servant is way worse off than he was to begin with. That’s the story of Satan and God. It’s the story of debt. If you don’t serve God, it’s your story, too.

God will not be mocked. He always balances the books. He is patient, but if you don’t work with him, sooner or later, you will pay what you owe, plus a penalty for disobedience.

I have a few loose ends in my life, and I’m fixing them up. Thank God, they amount to nearly nothing. I’m glad I don’t wake up every day realizing I have to go and do something I hate in order to pay for, say, a car I already wrecked. I wish America were as safe as I am.

If you want to be blessed, give yourself completely to God and keep praying in order to become aligned with his will. Giving money to TBN leeches won’t help you; it will make things worse. Your own schemes won’t help. You have to come by what you have in the correct way.

By the way, I have something that will be very helpful to you. I like to play Christian music all day; I even play it in my bedroom when I’m not around. Yesterday I pasted a bunch of MP3’s together to create one 10-hour long file, and I put it on a DVD. If you do this, you can put it in a disk player and keep the music going all day. You could also leave a Christian radio station playing, but a lot of their material is just worthless dance music. I bought five Julie True albums, and that’s what I use. Try it for three days. You’ll understand why I like it.

If you play her music around people who dislike God, it makes them very uncomfortable. It’s something to see.

It will be interesting to see what happens as Americans reap what they’ve sown. It’s already interesting, but it will get more intense.

Hope this is useful to you. Let me know.

File This Under “E” for “Exciting”

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Listen up, Slackjaws

Now that I’m a big expert knife maker, I am–this will be a shock–adding to my tool collection. But it’s not so bad. So far, I’ve only bought files and file handles.

Here’s what I learned while shopping for files: nothing is so simple the Internet can’t make it incomprehensible. Actually, I already knew that.

Guess how many kinds of files there are. I hope you’re not expecting me to tell you, because the answer appears to be either infinity or unknowable. Guess how you can tell different types from each other. You can’t. At least I can’t. Every flat file looks like every other flat file to me.

A Youtube knife dude said I needed a flat double bastard file. That’s really what they call them. I tried to find one. I found double bastard flat mill files, lathe files, hand files, handy files, corrupted files, X files, Windows swap files, and Rockford Files.

I may not have that list exactly right.

There are a whole bunch of files that look exactly alike on a monitor screen. Luckily for me, the Youtube guy filmed the package his file came in, so I zoomed in and got the model number.

The file was a Nicholson, and Nicholson makes good American files that come in red, white, and blue packages. In 2010. In 2016, they make dubious Mexican files that come in green packages. Some people say they’re good. Other people say “no bueno.” I do not know who is right, but I do know that it’s not like there are 50 other American file companies to which I can defect, so I’m buying Nicholson.

I would expect Mexicans to be able to make good files. For one thing, it’s simple. It’s a piece of steel that has been cut and hardened. I could probably make one myself if I absolutely had to. For another thing, files can be useful for cutting padlock shackles so you can cut across other people’s land while entering the United States illegally.

Just saying.

There are quite a few good products made in Mexico. I wouldn’t want to ride their first space shuttle (which would almost certainly land or at least make a brief stop in El Paso), but their Fender guitars are nice.

One of the things you learn if you make a serious effort to get good at using tools is that almost no tool is simple to understand and use. If you think I’m kidding, go to Youtube and look for a video telling people how to use a claw hammer. I guarantee you will find at least three, and you will find out you’ve been doing at least three things wrong. It’s the same way with files. There are different shapes and “grits,” if you can call them that. There are files for hogging metal, and there are files for finishing. You have to be careful you don’t push a file the wrong way, you have to know how to fix it when it gets “pinned,” and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can leave mystery marks on a part while performing an operation you are positive is too simple to be done wrong.

Check this video out. You thought I was kidding. I hope you kept the receipt for that wrong hammer you bought.

I have a ball peen hammer, a claw hammer, a blacksmith’s hammer, a deadblow hammer, a hammer with plastic faces, a 13-pound sledge, a machinist’s hammer, and probably some other hammers, and I still don’t have enough.

A masonry hammer. I have a masonry hammer.

Not including thread-restoring files, I had–I think–a grand total of four files before I got the knife bug. I decided to add three more to my collection. I guess that should be enough to get me through one knife.

Buying files is so complicated, I actually made a computer FILE listing the model numbers of the files I have. It’s my file file. If I decide to replace them, there is no way I’ll be able to figure the model numbers out without a record. I looked at my files (steel, not binary), and they don’t have numbers on them. One says “bastard” on it. Glad I knew that was a technical term, or I would be writing Nicholson a furious email right now.

Now that I’ve actually looked at my files, I’ve discovered that Nicholson also makes files in Brazil. Crazy as Brazil is, that may be good news. They make some good stuff there, like Springfield firearms.

Down in Springfield, Brazil. Yeah.

I’ve also learned that file prices make no sense. Some files that cost $16 on the Internet appear to be almost exactly the same as other files that cost $5. I’m sure there’s a secret explanation, probably in Portuguese. I don’t know what it is.

It looks like Ebay is the place to buy files. A certain file I wanted was over ten bucks on retail sites, but I found them for five dollars and change on Ebay. I also found handles.

One of the annoying things about files is that the handle costs extra. Maybe you thought you were supposed to use them the way they’re packaged, just holding the pointy thing at the end (okay, “tang”). Wrong. You’re supposed to blow another five bucks on a package of rubber handles. You can’t buy one handle; that would make too much sense. They come in packages of two. I ordered four, so I will probably have more file handles than anyone within a ten-block radius.

If you wear out a knife-making file, there is good news: you can make a knife out of it. People do it all the time. I guess the steel must be highly suited to the purpose. It’s already hard. The knives are probably not all that pretty, and the cost is surely increased by the necessity of wearing out sanding belts (because you can’t file a file), but it can be done.

If you absolutely must try it, do not use a new file. A piece of fine 440C steel bigger than a file costs nine bucks. Quite possibly less than the file you’re considering ruining. Think, McFly. Think.

If you want to find out just how stupid you are about files, I have help for you. I’m going to post a video by Lyle Peterson, AKA Tubalcain. He claims he’s a former shop teacher, but from the sound of his voice, I would guess he’s actually the voice guy from the Miller High Life commercials. Whatever. I can totally picture him making fat kids do pushups for deliberately crashing the lathe. Or just for crying because they can’t climb the rope like the other kids.

He sounds like he has one of those bony, scarred index fingers that go right through your ribcage when he jabs you in the chest for talking in class and tells you you’re a slackjaw who will end up working at Sonic. He reminds me of my first-grade gym teacher, Coach Hatch, who had a special giant shoe to support the foot he injured stomping German tank barrels shut at El Alamein.

If you like tools, the video will be interesting. If not, it will be like watching a Republican debate without Donald Trump.

Get yourself some files. They will change your world, one stroke at a time.

More

Well, I am wrong. I should have realized. When you make a file knife, you anneal the metal before you shape it. So you don’t have to grind the whole thing.

Just picked that up on Youtube. Why do I ever turn it off?

The Gun Game Gets Even Weirder

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

Steel Grips; Glass Houses

I was going to write a post and simply say Jesse James had won the 1911 game, but now I’m not so sure.

Jesse James is a famous bike builder and hot rod designer. You probably know that. A few years back, he entered a competition with Paul Teutul (both of them), and I believe he came in second. Paul Jr. built a bizarre chrome bike that looked like the kind of bicycle the Silver Surfer would ride, and Senior built something that may have been a halftrack Roto-tiller. I’m still not sure what it was. Street snowmobile, maybe? Definitely not a motorcycle.

Anyway, James had some amusing things to say at the time. He claimed the winning bike had a 3/4-gallon tank, so it was useless for actual riding. That much gas will get you maybe 30 miles. You would lose your mind, filling it up five times a day. Paul’s defense: it actually held a full gallon.

Okay.

To criticize Junior’s use of prefab parts, James said something like, “Here’s the sound of progress at PJD: ‘beep beep beep.'” He was imitating the UPS truck, backing up to drop off tanks and frames. I cackled.

I was always impressed by Junior’s work, but who would ride one of his bikes? They were made to go in glass cases in the lobbies of corporate headquarter buildings.

The bike James built was much better than the one that beat it, even if it was not as creative. It was well-proportioned. It was tasteful. It looked great. And it probably went farther than 30 miles.

James does a lot of his own work, instead of ordering things. He has a forge in his garage. That’s hard core. He has a mill, some kind of crazy press for forging hot metal, a planishing hammer, and probably every machine tool and welding tool known to man.

That impresses me. Making things the easy way sucks the soul out of them. If people can’t see the brush strokes, is it still art, or is it something more like printing?

His new thing is a firearms company, and he makes 1911 pistols and AR-xx rifles.

I went to the site to look it over, expecting to see a bunch of dubious crap, but I have to say it: he makes the nicest-looking 1911s I’ve ever seen. He makes Damascus slides for them. You really have to see it for yourself. Magnificent.

He told an interviewer he made something like 80% of the parts. I thought that was great. And I figured it was true, because a guy who gets highly worked up about making things by hand would not put his name on other people’s stuff just to make money.

Well, guess what? The pistols are made by STI, a well-known gun company that competes with outfits like Wilson and Les Baer. In another interview, he admitted it. He only makes certain bits.

Dude.

The fact that he would maybe not be totally truthful about it sours me on the whole deal. Not that I was planning to spend $5000 on a pistol.

I looked around to see what other people said about the guns, and the buzz doesn’t sound good. One guy claims they won’t fit in most holsters. That’s a serious problem. Who wants a $5000 pistol he has to carry in his hand? I mean, sure, I know nobody is really going to shoot one of these things, but you want to think it’s possible.

Also, he makes steel grips for his pistols. There is no way that’s a good idea. If it were a good idea, Colt would have done it, because it’s cheap. Steel is heavy, it’s slick, and it rusts. Come on. The grips look fantastic, but there is no way they work in real life. And even if they’re comfortable and grippy, who ever said, “You know, I just wish my carry 1911 were five ounces heavier”?

I knew Jesse James was not a candidate for sainthood, but at least I respected his honesty about his work. I figured that was sort of an anchor for him. Now that’s over. Also, I think a man who makes pistols with iron grips has to be careful about criticizing a man who makes a bike that only goes 30 miles.

I guess I should add that the bike Jesse James built has a smallish tank, and it probably won’t run for more than two hours. Hmm.

If you get a minute, go over to his site and check the guns out. I still think it would be neat to have one. My guess is that they’ll increase in value, and they would be great collector’s items. The site is JJFU.com.

Come to Dinner, DragonLord; Your Spaghetti-O’s are Getting Cold

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

I Descend into the Culture of Undateable Males who Play D&D

I guess I should know better than to do this, but I decided to try a new hobby: knifemaking.

Hear me out. Yes, I realize I have 10,000 tools, and I produce little of value with them. I still don’t have CNC under control. Yes. True. But if you think about it, knifemaking isn’t really a new hobby. It’s something to do with the stuff I already have.

Knives were a big part of my childhood. My favorite great uncle lived down the road from my grandfather, and when I was staying with my grandparents, I used to walk to his house and trade knives with him.

Trading knives is something you’re supposed to do, if you live in Eastern Kentucky.

He had a cigar box full of old pocketknives, like Cases and Remingtons, and he used to show them to me and tell me which brands were best.

I think he got the best of me most of the time.

Since I’ve been old enough to have pockets, I’ve always carried a knife. Unusual for a kid raised in Florida suburbs. I carried one in school. Try that now. The estrogen dealers who run the schools would tape you to a chair and have you analyzed.

The first decent pocketknife I owned was a Gerber. They used to make good knives. I went into a store in Lexington, Kentucky and bought a PK-2 folder made from 440C, which is a wonderful type of stainless steel.

I could tell it was a step up from the knives people up in the hills traded. You could spend an hour carving on a piece of hardwood and still use it to pop little hairs off of your wrist. It stayed sharp. That doesn’t work with a 1970 Case pocketknife.

I carry a Gerber Gator II now. It’s a big knife with a rubbery handle. The steel is not great, but it sharpens fast, and that means I’m less reluctant to use it. When you use a knife, you dull it, and then you have to sharpen it, and that’s work.

There are two nice things about the Gator. First, it cost me $15. It was so cheap, I bought two. Second, you can open it instantly by flicking your wrist. You don’t have to have a thumb stud, and you don’t have to worry about it popping open in your pants, the way switchblades do. I carried a switchblade for a while, and it tended to open by itself. It had a safety, but that made it busy and annoying to open.

For some reason or other, I decided to look at a knifemaker’s Youtube videos the other day. I don’t want to say his name. They were very informative. I was shocked to see how easy it was to make a knife. Basically, you buy a piece of flat steel, and you use files and a belt grinder to shape it. Then you drill a couple of holes in it and attach the grips and hardware, and you sand it to the correct profile.

I can do that! I had always been intimidated by knifemaking, but man, it’s simple.

Here’s why I won’t say the man’s name: his knives are awful. I looked at his website, and he had some knives for sale. I’m sure they work well, but they looked crude. That was encouraging. I knew I could draw something nicer than that. He seems like a great guy, so I do not want to do anything that could be perceived as calling him out.

I can already tell what I’m going to run into: the knife culture. There are a lot of weirdos out there who think of knives as horror movie props. I joined a forum, and I’m sure I’m going to run into guys who call themselves things like Dethskull and DragonLord. I want no part of that mindset. I am not interested in making scary instruments that look like the devil uses them to pick his teeth. I’m not looking to make boot knives or belt buckle knives or stilettos I can polish while staring at white supremacist forums. I do think it would be nice to have some custom-made kitchen knives, though.

I decided to start with a birds beak paring knife. The Japanese make them. It’s a tiny knife with a curved, pointed blade. I don’t pare anything, but these knives are great for boning poultry. I bought a couple of pricey Japanese ones, and they’re not very good. On top of that, like most Japanese kitchen knives, they have to be treated like sick babies. They fall apart if you blink at them. I also have two $5 Forschners with plastic handles. Very nice, but I’d like to have something with a thicker blade.

As far as I know, the 440C knives I’ve had have been the best, so I checked around, and it looks like this is a popular steel for beginners. I found a 12″ bar for $9, so I don’t think I can go wrong. I ordered a few bits to go with it.

I don’t have a big, manly 2×72 belt grinder, which is the optimal tool for shaping knives, but I do have a 1×42, and it will get the job done eventually.

The big problem with this is that if I succeed, I’ll have to fix a turkey. That’s a lot of work.

It would also be nice to have a 440C cleaver shaped to resemble the astonishing $9 carbon steel cleaver I bought from The Wok Shop. If you have no other kitchen knife, and you can learn to use a diamond sharpener, this is the knife you want.

The stuff should get here next week. If I get anywhere with it, I’ll post a photo. If not, I’ll delete this post and pretend nothing happened.