Retirement (into the future by going back to the '50s)

This is a time of happiness in my life. I now am well into retirement and discovering the joys of a new way of living, as well as rediscovering the ways I used to live when I was young. It is unquestionably a time of many delights, with more freedom to do new things, and more new things to do. There are, of course, the issues of health, but when haven't there been? And I now relax in the knowledge that I did what I could with what I had in the past and now can ready myself for what I know comes next.

In the material that follows, I will give a glimpse of what makes up the happy parts of my time now. Not included here are the times spent with grandchildren - they appear under the "Our Family" square on my home page.

Pictures of Some Garage Activities

Wood Turning Projects

My dad, Les Walters, died suddenly (4 days) of acute monocytic leukemia on June 16, 1976. Dad was a master wood worker. He had a 1969 Delta Rockwell, 12" wood lathe, and many chisels that he had either bought or made himself from files. After he died, I hauled his wood lathe up to our home in Madison, set it up in the basement, and began trying to master it. But, I didn't really have the time to learn properly (thanks to that all consuming job), and the dust was just too much for our small home. So, in 1978, I sold it for $200 to Herb Laitinen, my University of Illinois graduate professor who taught me equilibrium analytical chemistry. He hauled it to his retirement home in Florida, and turned bowls on it until 1983, when he died. His widow Marjorie asked if I wanted it back. I said yes, and she had it crated up and sent to me here in Northfield, For 20 years it sat in our garage in its crate, gathering rust. One of my first retirement projects was to get it out of the crate, use various preparations to get all of the rust off of it, and set it up in our "summer shop garage" ( shown here at the left). It all worked just as I remember from 30 years ago!

Here I am doing the roughing work on my first project. I don't like to make table legs and other functional pieces. Bowls are presently beyond my skill level (they are hard to make) as are goblets and the like. But I like to turn walnut and butternut to get the grain to show, so I make tapers, candle holders, lamp bases, and other more abstract, decorative pieces.

The trick to wood turning is have the right chisel for the wood, the right spindle speed, and the perfect chisel edge. This means that about a third of the time spent on a project is resurfacing the chisels used! I finally bought a slow speed grinder and a set of jigs so I can do this sharpening and figuring the right way.

A winter (indoor!) activity that I enjoy is silver soldering wire sculptures in a free-form approach. No two pieces are ever alike, and themes vary from week to week. Most of what I make is done in heavy gauge copper, brass, and silver wire. It is mostly all given away.

The Summer 2004 Walnut Turned Candle Holders

American black walnut has a gray to chocolate brown color, sometimes with purple streaks or light-colored sapwood on the edges of its boards. Walnut usually has interesting and beautiful grain patterns ranging from straight grain to swirl patterns to distinctive burl grains, depending on the cut of the wood. European walnut is scarce and more expensive than American black walnut. While European walnut lightens with age, American walnut darkens.

Pictured below are examples of three sets of tapered candle holders made this summer that show these different walnut patterns. Some of these candle holders were the first part of my summer lathe work. Others followed. In all, I turned some 25 sets of candle holders, all of which were given as gifts to those who love walnut and butternut.

Some walnut blanks have deep, rich grain lines down inside the rough block that only appear when cut into. Here are two examples. The taper on the left shows overlaid grain lines blending into the lighter (and softer) sapwood. The taper on the right actually has a silken appearance in the vicinity of the swirl that accompanies a branch forking out of the tree. These patterns are so striking that each taper is best viewed alone to avoid overcoming the rest of a table setting.

Butternut, while related to walnut, is much softer and much harder to turn. Chisels have to be constantly sharpened to avoid "ripping" the grain. But, as is evident above, a patient effort is well worth it. The ring patterns in the tree are very tight and there are many small offshoots that give beautiful contrasting patterns. The color has to be brought out in the finishing though, since the wood is very light until varnished. Then the differing densities near a ring accent the grain patterns beautifully.

The walnut in these front two tapers is smooth and relatively uniform. The one in back is showing some grain patterns around a small knot. These make a nice combination of tapers arranged together. Their warm browns will complement either a dark or light wood table.

In the kind of turning I do, no two objects are ever exactly alike. Thus, tapers like this that must have a certain proportionality are a challenge to turn. It's all in the eye!

Most of the summer, 2004 candle holder yield is shown above! All of these went to family or friends for Christmas and as wedding presents this year. I had only two projects that did not work and had to be discarded.

The 2005 Summer Stools

This (2005) summer, my focus has changed away from the lathe to working with my new table saw (see left). To get this saw, I sold my Mac G4 desktop computer and a couple of small electronic things and purchased it. I guess this show how retired I have become!

Other new shop equipment that accompanies the work done with the table saw are a scroll saw, a small belt/disk sander, a drill press, and a band saw. Since these are all great sawdust makers, I also had to improvise with a shop vacuum that can be switched between devices.

To learn how to use the table saw, I began with the most basic of all joinery cuts, the lap cut. As a project to combine this with doweling and cutting to dimension, I developed a stool design to make stools for the grandchildren to used when watching TV or playing games. As is evident below, the final result was kid tested and found to be successful!

This is the basic stool design. The first stools were made of white pine and fir, woods that are inexpensive (in case of mistakes) and easy on the tools and blades (in case too much was cut in one pass).

The top was made with 2, 3, or 4 boards spaced apart from each other with dowel pegs. This gave me a way to learn more about how to dowel. The sides had a 4 degree taper on each edge, or about 1 inch per linear foot. The gave me a way to learn how to cut tapers on the table saw.

The cross bars (for stability) were place in lap joints (see below).

The lap joints were a major learning task for the summer. For a joint to be made correctly, the cut part has to be sized so that the cross bar just fits into it, with no visible gaps at either side and in perfect alignment with the top edges of the cut. An example is shown below. Many different trials and approaches were tried before the proper jig was built to all these dimensional fits to be cut. Later in the summer a set of dado blades was purchased, which made the cut less tedious, although not necessarily more accurate. Some people use a router for these joints, but I wanted to learn how to make them on the table saw.

The doweling learning project had its moments. Even with a professional doweling jig, it was difficult to get perfect alignment in three dimensions. The best I could do is shown below, convincing me to ask Santa for a biscuit joiner.

One set of stools is shown here on the left. These will go to my great nephews and nieces in the Chicago area for this Christmas.

One special stool was made out of oak for a friend. Oak, which is pricey, is a great wood to work. Another stool was made from mahogany, which I did not like working or the final appearing result.

The last stool I made this summer was a custom design shown here on the right. It had a back, so a youngster could lean back while playing at a table or watching TV. It also had a balance prop hinged on the back so it wouldn't tip over backwards if and when the youngster tried to lean way back. It has not been kid tested as yet!

In all, a total of 16 stools were made this summer, all of which have been given away or are to be given this Christmas. Each summer brings one kind of project that teaches me how to do basic woodworking. Next summer, I have to master the router, a biscuit joiner (hopefully), and more joinery on my saw. I yet have to master box joints, dovetail joints, and the many variations that are made on the basic lap joint. I would love to get a router table and set up a poor-boy's shaper so I could do more edging designs, but that as to wait until more of the basic joining tools are here and I can use them well.

The 2006 "Elgin High School" Living Room Footstools

This summer (2006) has been my first attempt at small pieces of living room furniture. The two stools shown at the left are patterned after the ones made as a final examination project for students in the Elgin, Il, High School wood shop classes. The first ones go back into the latter 1910's, where the idea and the pattern were first introduced into the shop classes by my maternal grandfather, Philip E. Taylor. The one that my father made when he graduated from EHS was turned in for a grade of A in 1926. In 1976, Dad gave us one for Christmas, 6 months before he died. It was this latter stool that I took apart to learn how to make these two at left, the left one of pine and the right one of oak.

During the summer I made a total of 10 stools, 3 for Christmas presents, 2 for wedding presents, 2 for neighbor friends, 1 for me, and 2 for former students and their families. Some typical examples of the finished stools are shown at the left here.

The key to the stool is to have no end grain showing, on any side, as you look at it. To do this, the sides of the stool are attached to an inner core that is rabbeted on the inside edges of the two end pieces. The sides of the inner core are made longer than the sides. The sides are then screwed to the core from the inside.

The spindles are turned on my wood lathe and then inserted into holes at the tops of the side pieces before they are screwed into the core. The piece is then stained (here a puritan pine stain on oak) and the unit then finished with several coats of polyurethane, and rubbed down with 0000 steel wool between each coat.

All of the stools followed the same Elgin High School wood shop design except the one below. This was made with a deep, enclosed body and a hinged top so that it could hold up to 9 paperback books. It is a "reading stool".

Selected Winter Activities

Shown at the left is a cross design that has been popular with my friends and neighbors. I also have made wire sculptures
on "the 23rd Psalm" shown at the right below. Clicking on this picture will show illustrations of the wire sculpture abstractions.

I have done some three dimensional wire work, one of which is shown at the right here. It is called "The Mind of Jesus" and represents my impressions of His thoughts when he uttered, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." The lighted candle symbolizes Him as the light of the world.

Another three dimensional piece is called "Entwined in love" and symbolizes the phrase, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." as spoken in some wedding ceremonies. The thick wire running up the center of the piece represents God's presence during the courtship and wedding of the man (copper wire) and woman (silver wire) as they become entwined in each other. The bonding of man, woman, and God becomes closer and closer as they pass through life together, with the man and the woman finally merging into God's presence when they die and "death us do part". The piece is about 24" tall.

The Hanging Boards - The Apostles' Creed in Words and Wires

I have made hanging boards with sets of wire sculptures that show my feelings about certain passages that form the foundation of my faith. Below are four foam-core boards with wire sculpture "pictograms" that symbolize my feelings about the stanzas that make up the Apostles' Creed. Following these board pictures are the thoughts that I have when reciting the Creed. As many know, the Apostles' Creed is not found in the Bible, but rather represents the beliefs of the Apostles of Christ. It is understood to have been written hundreds of years ago. It is recited during the liturgy in Christian services today, both in Protestant and Catholic denominations.

Often, the understanding of fundamental concepts and beliefs is aided by representing them in both words and abstract symbols. This is what I have done here. The words are taken from the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW - the "green book") used at St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield. The symbols, expressed as copper, brass, and silver wire sculptures, help me add tone to the words. They help me better express how I understand them and feel their meaning. As in all artistic representations, I have interpreted liberally and freely, letting the words express accuracy and the wire sculptures express personal feelings.

I have greatly benefited from the interpretive help of my wife, Barbara, in making these pictograms and boards.

Each of the above individual pictograms is numbered to reflect my impressions of what comes to mind when saying it.

Real Photograph Wall Flowers

One retirement activity that has been great fun has been the design and fabrication of "wall flowers" (shown below). To make these, I digitized the best of a set of over 500 close-up Ektachrome slides of flowers I took between 1977 and 1978 while living in Madison, WI. Once in the computer, I printed them on special paper with special inks on a special printer. The results were then contact cemented to 3/16" birch laminated plywood and pressed into place. I then sprayed them with a fixative to prevent humidity damage to he paper. When dry, I cut them out on my DeWalt scroll saw. Then, I glued 1/2" blocks on the back to make the flowers stand away from the wall and cast a shadow when they were hung. The results were as shown below.

Here are two flower close ups, followed by some other shots.

Another thing I have done with my flower pictures is to frame them within a single window frame, four to a window.
An example is shown below. I have made three of these, each with different pictures, one to sell, one to display, and one as a gift.

The Piaggio MP3

This MP3 is what I ride for my outdoor personal pleasure during the spring, summer, and fall months (occasionally with Barb on the back)! It makes all of those trips to the hardware store to get parts for my many projects fun. Considering that it gets up to 70 miles per gallon, and that it will cruise smoothly between 15 and 90 m.p.h. it is suitable for such things as accelerating up hills on the open road as well as smoothly gliding through downtown, all without shifting and with lots of low end torque. Check out the MP3 URL to see its specs.

The "Black-Cherry-Red" Piaggio Motor scooter
Model MP3 - 4-cycle - 250 cc
"OlePal" (OhLeePal)

Four views of my 2007 Piaggio MP3 scooter "OlePal"

Dave and I out for a summer, after supper cruise around Northfield in the old days.
when we both rode Vespa ET-4's.

Note the chemistry lab safety goggles on the dragon red, Vespa factory helmet!
They protect my $700 asymmetric trifocals and keep my eyes from watering. The best use they ever got.

The Vespa Engine

Here is an engineering masterpiece. Developed by a team of 50 Ph.D.'s and 150 engineers to provide acceleration, speed, fuel economy, and vibration free comfort, all while meeting California pollution laws and standards, it is everything you could want. Maintenance is virtually nil as long as fluids are changed regularly and by factory specialists. Quality is impeccable.

Shown by the arrows in this diagram are the oil fluid and vapor paths while running. Note that oil is sprayed into the bottom of the piston to lubricate the wrist pin!

For specifications on the Vespa engine, look at the PSN Reviews of the 2003 ET4

Recent Retirement Special Activities

The Big Bike

These were the summers of my lost youth, 2008-2009.

For over 30 years I had longed for a true motorcycle, a "big bike". Always, these longings  had been tempered with the wisdom and maturity of a full+ time job and the responsibilities of a family.

But, then, the kids left home, and I retired. And, after a respectable period of mourning for my teaching, I bought the above Yamaha, FJR1300AE, super sport touring, big boy's motorcycle - at age 70.

The FJR1300AE (AE=automatic electric) is indeed a big bike.
It is water cooled, fuel injected, electronically ignited, shaft
driven, and has 4 inline cylinders displacing ~ 1300 cc and
delivering 153 HP at the crank (~130 HP at the rear wheel).

It has been reported to have a top speed well over 140 mph,
and has an astonishing amount of torque, giving great
sudden acceleration at any speed.  Shifting is up and down
driver demanded, but computer controlled and  actuated.

(Note top end.)

The styling of the FJR is designed to provide smooth airflow around the bike, to allow the rider a semi crouch forward riding position, to direct most of the engine heat away from the rider (unless he wants to open the side cowls for cold weather warming), and to stabilize the bike at higher speeds.  The windshield is electrically raised or lowered to compensate for helmet buffeting. When the stock windshield is replaced with after market devices designed to shape wind flow, this is a very effective adjustment for all speeds.

It took me most of the 2008 season to learn how to ride this machine. Hours of practice in single maneuvers (such as turning in a semi-circle and shifting smoothly) were followed by evenings of study, both in my books and from articles on the web. The second season (2009) was to be fully occupied by riding, and most of it was. Short trips on back roads were followed by longer trips on the interstate. Traffic management was less difficult than I anticipated, largely because of the great agility, stability, and acceleration possible with the bike. Windage around semis was always a bother, especially at interstate speeds. The superior visibility from all riding positions made riding the bike in almost all traffic situations actually safer than I felt in our car. All was looking great. But then ...

Near the end of July, there was a horrible cycle accident in south central Minnesota that led to two very nasty biker deaths. My good friend and neighbor was present shortly after the collision, and witnessed first-hand the slow death of one of the two riders. It had a profound effect on him. He visited me, and emotionally pleaded with me to sell the FJR, because of my age (then 71) and the terrible impact this kind of accident had on the families of the two riders when they had to visit the scene.

Coupled with the fact that all of my family was distressed every time they knew I was out on the bike, especially my wife, who didn't even like to be in the garage when I just started it up, I decided to sell it. I quickly put it out on a local web site, lest I had second thoughts, and it was gone in 5 hours.

So, I take pride in the fact that I did safely learn, manage, and ride this big bike, between ages 70-71. I also take relief in the fact that I didn't end up in a horrific accident and my wife never had to come to the accident scene to identify what was left of me. And, perhaps most of all, I thank my friend and neighbor for his highly emotional embraces that gave me pause to think out what "the cost of doing business" riding this bike could become.

As ever, the Lord moves in strange ways.