Friday, June 10, 2005


Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Gail had me blushing a bit recently, when she wrote about my handyman skills. I do love to tinker, and work with my hands. (Being born in a pre-internet, pre-PlayStation era, I guess I qualify as a "primitive tool-user". Gail is an Anthro geek, she would know. *hee*)

For as long as I can remember, I've been taking things apart, and for nearly all of that time putting them back together. As a kid I built model airplanes; not just the plastic glue-together kind, but the balsa wood skeletons that came out of the box as tiny sticks. It took a long time to learn, but as an only kid I had plenty of time, and I learned patience and developed my skills. Too, growing up with no father around, I managed to develop some facility with household repairs.

I've lived in a few houses over the years, and own my second old house, and it's good to know how to look after things if you don't want to pay professionals for every clogged toilet or blown fuse. And I've accumulated a... well, extensive collection of tools. Gail once asked me if I had a soldering iron, and I almost burst out laughing - I have three, at least, as well as three torches for electrical and pipe soldering.

I have three hand sanders and a disc/drum sander. I have three drills and a jigsaw and a scroll saw, and probably a dozen hand saws. I have blind pipe wrenches and jack planes and prick awls and ball-peen hammers - and an adze, which word has scored for me several times in Scrabble. I have tools that do many things, and tools that do one arcane thing, and tools that I've forgotten what they do. I love tools.

I love the work, too. I tried to explain to Gail that it doesn't feel like "work" to me to fix something; I enjoy the little challenges involved in sorting out a mechanical problem and putting it right. (Not that it's all sunshine - sometimes, you're upside down on the bathroom floor and water is spraying everywhere because the furshlugginer valve broke off in your hand...) But it feels good to be able to do things like this... useful, I guess. When my poor old cat hurt his back, and couldn't jump up on the bed anymore, I took a few pallets home from work and used the lumber to make a set of steps for him. Nothing fancy, but for a few years he was able to get up and down without hurting himself.

Jenny plans
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.

The model airplane thing hasn't gone away, either; I still enjoy building and flying them, although most of my free time goes to the C.A.P. these days. My most ambitious project was a scale model I built back in 1997, of a Curtiss "Jenny" biplane of the 1920s; I designed it, drew my own plans and built it from scratch. It flew well (still does) and when I took it to the model meet at Old Rhinebeck, quite a few guys asked me about the plans. One of them was the editor of Flying Models magazine, and he convinced me to write a construction article. I cleaned up the plans and rendered them on my computer, and wrote the piece; I ended up getting eight pages of color, and the cover of the magazine. They paid me for the article, and modelers can still buy my plans from Carstens Publications. (Plan #CD-024)