1 House 100 Years

Preparing For The Centennial Of A Place That Matters

Month: June, 2013

Woodworking With a Portable Table Saw

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This weekend I helped a good friend with some renovation work at his rental property and had the need of a table saw. While using my table saw in the middle of my living room temporary workshop, I realized that I have shared very little about important tools for renovation work.

Rather than buying the large garage workshop-sized table saw, my budget only allowed for a smaller model, a portable one from Sears which has served me very well. I’ve used it to build my kitchen cabinets and the box beams for my living and dining rooms as well as with dozens of other projects.

My thoughts and beliefs about woodworking have evolved over time. Although I greatly admire the traditional methods and tools, I would like to believe that quality craftsmanship is still possible with modern tools and what some might call “less-than-desirable” methods. (I have not yet mastered the dovetail joint.)

I hope that what I have done will acknowledge and honor the past traditions while adapting to modern times. My home is not in a historic district, just a small out-of-the-way blue collar neighborhood. Hopefully it shows that someone has loved it.

It’s difficult to get everything that I’d like to say about table saws in one post. Hopefully this will help anyone who is holding back because they don’t have a large garage workshop-sized table saw.

If you buy a portable model, you will probably want to secure it to a portable workbench as well. I screwed a piece of 2×4 to a piece of plywood to make my base. There are hole as well to bolt the table saw to the base. The 2×4 gives the adjustable clamping workbench top something to grip. It’s very secure this way.

You will probably also want to make a table saw sled which is very helpful for crosscutting. It should be constructed specifically to fit your table saw. After I made my base, this was the next thing that I made. After that, most basic jobs could be done rather easily.

There are different jigs that can be built to fit many specialized cutting tasks for a table saw. The most useful jig for me so far has been one for making tapered legs. Three other items that are important for safety: push sticks, eye protection, healthy respect for power tools.

Although many of my tools are modern and electricity-powered rather than muscle-powered, I feel that having a few auxiliary tools worn smooth by decades of use helps me to be grounded in the past. A foxtail shop brush, on long term loan from a friend, has come in very handy for clearing away sawdust.

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(The photograph at the top shows my portable table saw bolted to its base and then clamped securely into my portable work bench. The sled for crosscutting is in place and the taper jig is resting on top of it rather than being in it’s proper place. The photograph at the bottom shows my sink cabinets and red oak countertop shortly after final installation. Both were made with the help of my portable table saw. This was the first piece of cabinetry I ever made.)

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The Best “Roasted Potatoes” of My Life!

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These are freshly-dug potatoes, and they are the most important part of this recipe. They should have a paper thin skin that can be accidentally peeled away with just the slightest pressure from a thumb or finger.

Store bought potatoes are satisfactory but not best. I dig my potatoes a day or two before I’m going to roast them to give the skins an opportunity to firm up a bit. I also don’t wash them until time to cook them. This is to help preserve the thin, tender skins.

Late spring and early summer is when my potatoes are ready for digging. Red Norland potatoes have been in my garden every spring since I’ve been in my house. They are just about the easiest vegetable to grow as long as they have good soil and are kept well mounded.

This would probably never be called a “gourmet” recipe because it is so basic and uncomplicated with no special sauce or hours of complex preparation. The real work and love is in making sure that the potatoes are grown in good soil and tended to carefully and organically.

(I think it’s much easier to get all of the equipment out first, so rather than starting with a list of ingredients, I will be starting with a list of equipment and materials. This way you can get everything organized ahead of time.)

  • Bowl
  • 12 inch cast iron skillet (or baking sheet, but there is just something special about using a cast iron skillet)
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Oven mitt
  • Kitchen tongs

Preheat oven to 400° with cast iron skillet on the center rack. Meanwhile, wash off and let dry:

6 to 8 medium- to small-sized potatoes

Cut into wedges. For medium-sized potatoes, I cut them into eighths. For smaller-sized potatoes, I cut them into sixths. Each wedge should have a piece of the potatoes skin on it.

Place potato wedges into the bowl.

Cover with:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Toss gently to coat potato wedges on all sides.

Remove cast iron skillet from oven and add:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Tilt skillet from side to side to coat the bottom.

Place potato wedges in the skillet with the skin side down. This will minimize sticking and it will also expose the cut sides of the potato wedges to the oven’s dry heat for better roasting. There may be a little bit of sizzling, and that is fine.

You may need to place a few wedges on top of others. Too many will cause uneven roasting, and you don’t want to have to stir or rearrange them halfway through roasting because the sides without any skin on them will stick to the pan.

Sprinkle potatoes with:

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

You can add more later at the table if desired.

Place into oven and roast for 45 minutes. If you are using a different type of pan, your time may be different. Remove roasted potatoes with kitchen tongs.

Serves two. You will never have enough no matter how many potatoes you start with!

What makes these especially good is the way that the outer surfaces get lightly golden-browned and seal each wedge so that the potato has a soft, rich, creamy texture inside. You may even find that yours have a smooth buttery texture and taste almost like mashed potatoes that are loaded with butter, but there is no butter in the recipe! And very little olive oil as well!

This is the basic recipe, and I have tried other variations that included garlic and onions and rosemary, even some Old Bay seasoning. The first roasted potatoes of the year are always prepared in this very simple way.

There are plenty of opportunities to experiment, but if you want just a good reliable recipe, this is the one! Just be sure to use freshly dug potatoes for the best flavor and texture and adjust according to the skillet or pan that you are using.

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One Very Favorite Tree (that has given much more than it has taken in time and sweat)

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I love the smell of magnolia blossoms. Just as they begin to open, you can cup your hands around the open bowl formed by the petals and inhale the sweet almost overpowering fragrance. The perfume is still quite strong even when fully opened. It is the smell of Southern homes.

When I bought my house, almost a quarter of the yard was overgrown with trees, shrubs, and some really evil thorny vines. I did not see the magnolia tree in all of that on my first visit. When I did see it, I was pleased by this “wish list” item.

I closed on my house on a Thursday, and right away began working. I had arranged to have Thursday and Friday off from my day job even though I still had to work my night job. I had planned a tentative home and yard project schedule for these four days.

Taking up all of the cat soiled shag carpeting was the top priority, then the faded wallpaper, then the heavy drapes and valances. There was so much to do, but I made a start. I set aside three days for indoor projects and then one day, Sunday, for outdoor projects.

Sunday morning I worked up on the roof, sealing around the chimneys where there had been some water damage that I had noticed in the attic. It was nice to be up on the roof, my roof, surveying my neighborhood. Someone played jazz on a saxophone a few doors down.

Sunday afternoon I began tackling the overgrown area of the yard with the sole purpose of rescuing my magnolia tree. I just wanted to get some sun to it at first. Later everything around it would be removed. I wanted it to bloom, but it looked much too sun-starved.

There was a lot of work with a chainsaw, shovel, mattock, and pruners in that section of the yard with more work even now still needed, but several years later, I was rewarded by magnolia blossoms. Each year there are more. This year some were right at my nose level.

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