Friday, March 13, 2009

Daddy's Busy Day

Well! I had a busy day today. It all started when I didn't go to work. :-)

Ok, there's nothing unusual about that....

(sound of record scratching....)

No, not like that. Turns out my company is on a 9/80 work schedule, which means you cram 80 hours of work into 9 workdays over the course of two weeks, instead of the usual 10. You (theoretically) do the same amount of work, but you get every other Friday off. Now, in reality, most people on my project cram anywhere from 85 to 100 hours over any given two weeks. Nevertheless, pretty much the whole company was shut down today.

And that's good, because today was Friday the 13th. Maybe if no one comes in today, we won't break anything....

(Of course, as anyone who works with computers knows, you don't actually need to do anything for a computer to break. They're like cats; they decide what they're going to do, and when. And they despise you.)

Anyway, today was my day of rest, so of course we packed it full of as much stuff as we could. It was divided about 50-50 between "Honey-do" stuff and Man stuff. (And, as much as we guys hate to admit it, there's a fair deal of overlap between those categories.)

First thing: I had to go shopping this morning. But this wasn't shopping shopping like what women do--this was Man Stuff shopping. First, I headed into Sacramento to pick up a 1/4" by 8' metal dowel, for reasons you'll see a little later. Then it was off to Lowe's, where I picked up some aviation shears, a screen-repair tool (one of those things that looks like a double-ended pizza cutter), a 2x8 board, some patio furniture, a faucet repair kit, new batteries, and some drill bits.

What's all that for?

It's not all for the same project, I'll tell you what. I know; I have this way of reading grocery lists, and imagining that they're describing some kind of diabolical recipe. I assure you, this was several weeks' worth of needs and wants that just rather piled up, so we took care of them all with one trip. My haul may have raised a few eyebrows, but it was entirely legitimate.

So when I got home, the first thing I did was haul all the patio furniture over to that patio thing I finished up just over a year ago. And then I spent a few hours in the afternoon getting it set up. So here's the newest addition to our backyard; isn't she lovely?
I'm referring, of course, to that tall drink on the back table. I tell you, by the time I got it all set up, that tall drink was the most lovely thing out there. But the tables n' stuff look pretty good, too. We like them. The girls have already blessed them by making mud in a bucket on top of them.

If you ever come over to visit, we'll hose them down before we serve you dinner on them.

But while all the work that went into getting those things home and assembled would have been enough to earn me the good night's sleep of a contented worker, I was a bit more ambitious. Now that I'd done some of the Honey-dos, it was time for Man Stuff.

Remember that metal dowel and 2x8 I mentioned earlier? Well, here they are:
That, my friends, is a homemade mandrel. Its purpose is to help me make rings for maille. The general idea is that you get a large quantity of high-quality wire of appropriate thickness, you feed the end through a small hole in the shaft, and you crank with one hand while flattening the wire against the shaft with the other, to make a tight coil. Then when you're done, you cut off the wire at both ends, slide the shaft out, and start cutting the links one by one off the coil.

The observant reader may have been wondering why the heck this semi-coherent blogger just purchased a pair of aviation shears, of all things. Why would he do that? Well, the reason is that--as maillers have found--there are some tools that work better than others for cutting maille links. There are tools that cut wire by pinching it, like wire cutters and bolt cutters; but pinch-cut rings, although they can be used in maille, tend to have pointed ends that don't close flush with each other. There are tools that cut wire by sawing it, like hacksaws, jeweler saws, and cut-off blades on a dremel; and these flush-cut rings tend to be very high quality; but they are much harder to make and take longer. (And trying to cut little tiny rings with a dremel is not very safe. One would need, um... to have a pair of chainmaille gloves first.) And then there are tools that cut wire by shearing it, like how a pair of scissors cuts paper. These shear-cut links tend to be almost as high quality as the flush-cut ones, and almost as easy to do as the pinch-cut method. So I thought I'd give that a try. I'll let you know how it goes....

...when I actually get my hands on some good wire. Alas, I struck out today. The metal supply store where I got the dowel didn't carry wire in stock. And at Lowe's, the only thing I found that was close was some 16-gauge galvanized steel wire. Now, this isn't bad stuff, and a lot of maille shirts these days are made from it; but the zinc coating does tend to oxidize to a dark, dull grey over time, and it eventually gets that "old metal smell"; and when the soft zinc coating gets scratched (as it inevitably will, when a mailler works it with pliers), the steel underneath will eventually start to rust.

Besides, I've decided that I don't want to start with a maille shirt. I'd prefer to start with smaller projects--and that means jewelry-type stuff: necklaces, belts, bracelets, that sort of thing. This will give me some much-needed mailling experience, and offer me a chance to experiment with different weave patterns and ring aspect ratios before I start the big stuff. But to do this, of course, I need better wire than funny-smelling galvanized steel. I'd prefer to start with stainless steel, or bronze, or one of the alloys known as nickel silver (although it doesn't actually contain any silver).

So, I can certainly mail-order the stuff if I have to. But I'm hoping to find a local supplier who has the stuff in stock. So if I have any readers in the Sacramento area who's into chainmaille or into fashioning jewelry, please don't hesitate to jump in and let me know where you get your stuff.

Ok, that's enough Man Stuff; it was time for more Honey-dos. First, I got to assemble and bake a pot pie for dinner--from scratch. Well, it wasn't entirely from scratch. We use store-bought pie-crust dough. And Tonya had actually cooked the chicken meat for the pie while I was putting together my mandrel. But then the Happy Boy came down with some kind of bug, and needed lots of hugs and cuddles, so Mommy did that while I put the rest of the thing together, from sauteeing the onions to crimping the top and bottom crusts together on the assembled pie.

And, for the first time ever, the Pillowfight Fairy asked for seconds on the chicken pie. I must have done something right. :-) Either that, or it's been long enough since they saw Chicken Run that they don't have quite the sympathy for the poultry that they used to....

Then I gave the Pillowfight Fairy a piano lesson. Alas, that didn't go well today. The Fairy is doing well in her homeschooling, and is making tremendous progress; but we still occasionally have days like today, where she fought every little thing we asked her to do. Ah, well; it was Friday, after all. Even homeschoolers look forward to the weekends.

Well, after the kids went to bed, I got to do my last Honey-do of the day: I fixed a leaky faucet in our hall bath. It was a pretty straightforward repair; the faucet is a Delta one-handle bath/shower fixture, and Delta has been making standardized back-ends for these for years, as well as repair kits.


This repair would have been straightforward, except that the replacement part appears to have been assembled slightly, um... wrong. It has an adjustable scald-guard mechanism, that prevents the handle from being turned to the point that it's letting in too much hot water. The trouble is, with the way everything was assembled, the handle could barely turn one quarter of the way around, even with the scald-guard moved to the hottest position allowable; and when the water was run at this hottest position, it was at best lukewarm. So, thinking like the Engineer that I am, I reverse engineered the thing, and figured out how to remove the scald-guard completely, which gives the handle the same range of motion (and same temperature control) that the old faucet had. So yes, I did have parts left over when I reassembled the thing. :-)

Who says that Software Engineers can't do hardware?

Anyway, that was one day in the life of Daddy Power. I'm almost looking forward to going back to work next week so I can relax.


(P.S. And my wife did even more than I did. And she's seven months pregnant! Good heavens, how does she keep going!?)

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