Saturday, February 21, 2009

Biscotti Weekend 2008

The long overdue tale of my annual December trip to New Jersey.

Once again as the calendar turned to December I loaded up the car and headed for the wilds of New Jersey for Biscotti Weekend, an annual event that features wrestling, woodworking, reading, and the lovely smell of baked biscotti. I've been making the pilgrimage since my nephew D was 2, and it has become a tradition that we both look forward to.

The highlight of the weekend is the project, usually a woodworking project, that he and I put together for him to give to his parents. This year's project started with a couple of phone conversations in November. After giving D a week to think about the kind of project he'd like to do - this year I offered him the option of making something for his parents, his cousins, or friends. He decided that he'd like to make a stool for his parents (actually he gave me two options but the other will remain a surprise because it's on the table for next year). In the final planning call we settled on wood type and then I headed to the shop.

Or I should say I headed to the crate of plans. My sister, D's Tama, already has a simple footstool that I made for her years ago and I didn't want to duplicate that. In my stash of plans I found a couple different patterns for two step Shaker style stools featuring only a few, relatively simple parts. The only tricky aspect of the pattern I picked was the angled cut on the back edge of the stool. (I'll post details on my woodworking blog and update this with a link when I have.)

Preparations also included loading up my iPod with holiday music. My new car features an iPod connector and this meant that I didn't have to haul a bag full of cds with me.

I got a later start than I'd wanted, probably because I had my woodworking class Thursday night and didn't get packed until Friday morning. Friday's entertainment was limited to dinner at Teriyaki Boy, though D opted for pizza instead.

Saturday morning started bright and early with D's wrestling practice. He's been wrestling for 3 years and is very serious about it.


Preparing to take on his opponent.

He's got him down.

He should be looking at the back of him opponents neck.

While D and I were out of the house Shelley got started on her biscotti baking. Over the course of the weekend she made dozens of batches which were then shipped off to family and friends.

We split up for the afternoon, T took D and his friend, I, to see Bolt while I went to see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a very powerful movie. I definitely recommend it, but be prepared to have it stick in your mind for weeks and months afterward - I still find myself pondering the ending. Bolt, which I saw last month with my pal RT is also very good, though definitely a kid's movie.

Once we got back from the movie we headed to the basement, where a temporary workshop was set up. I had done most of the preparation of the parts, since the R-K house does not have a workshop. Step 1 was to cut several notches in the sides of the stool. D decided he much rather have me do that task. Given the setup it was slow going. We got one or two done before dinner with D making sure the clamps remained tight.

After dinner we dropped the grown-ups off at a concert and returned to the house for several rounds of Hang on Harvey. D was the undisputed champion. After a few stories D headed off to bed, and I headed to the basement to finish sawing the notches.

On Sunday morning I joined Shelley and D at Princeton Friends Meeting.
While I attended meeting for worship Shelley tended to the babies, and D went to First Day School. I spent a few minutes in the meeting house after rise of meeting taking pictures. You can see them here.

Once we arrived back at their house it was back to the basement for D and me. The first order of business was drilling countersink holes and pilot holes for the screws that would hold the stool together.
D suited up to help drill.

D decided he wasn't up doing the actual drilling, but he did keep the parts organized. Twenty four holes later we were ready for assembly. (Side note Norm Abram pronounces this a-sem-ba-ly and it drives me crazy.) D volunteered to start all the screws. After giving them a coat of akempuky, he screwed them into the slats and steps.

starting screws
We chatted while he turned screws and D was occasionally distracted by the conversation.

Finally, it was on to final assembly. Where we discovered that the holes I had drilled in the one angled slat were on the wrong side. That and a couple of other errors had me a bit frustrated. My very intelligent nephew reminded me that "It's homemade. It doesn't have to be perfect." We decided that the stool would be fine with a couple of visible screws, the rest were to be covered with plugs and continued on. We also ran into an issue screwing on the top. I had not taken into account the location of the screws holding on the slats just under the top and the holes for attaching the top made the screws run into each other. Several additional holes were drilled and the top was finally attached.
D applying glue before attaching the slats.

Next step was to plug all the screw holes. I had cut plugs before heading down there, with my plug cutters. (I made several dozen by cutting lots of holes almost all the way through a piece of maple.) While I was working on cutting the notches, D had taken charge of popping the plugs out of their holes. After placing glue in each of the holes we added the plugs.

D using the dead-blow hammer to seat the plugs in their holes.

flush cut
After a short drying time D used the flush-cut saw to trim off the plugs.
He had great fun teaching Shelley all about the flush-cut saw.

The almost finished product - still needs sanding and wax.

D and Snowy (at least I think that's his name) - slightly blurry.
My mind is already working on ways to get a better picture of them next year.

I would be remiss if I didn't include a picture of the multi-tasking Shelley - cooking and watching videos on-line.

Monday morning before I headed home I was able to drop D off at school. One of the best parts was the map that D drew to show me how to get to his school.

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