Lucas Weismann

Back in Class – Phoenix

Taught with Jeannie Lin again for the first time since our last trip to Europe.  It is amazing.  I can’t believe how it’s possible to know how good a dance partner can be, intellectually, and yet how easy it is to forget just HOW good they are until you are in the same place with them.  This isn’t limited to her dancing.  Jeannie and I have a working relationship that we’ve been polishing since our first experience back in 2013 at Blue Moon Blues, in Tucson, Arizona. 

Now we’re back in Arizona for the first time since our first time.  We’re older, more experienced and it’s amazing how much our progress as a partnership shows from our first time together.  Rough edges are worn, dance philosophies are understood and class just felt smooth.

Nathan and Stephanie have been great local hosts, with around 8 couples for a small event only advertised two months in advance.  The attitude of the students has been fantastic and the late night taqueria has really nice Carne Asada fries.

 

In all, it’s been a fantastic weekend and I’m thankful for the opportunities our friends give us to share the dancing we love with their home scenes.  I hope everyone reading this is having a great time and that you can feel a measure of the joy I feel right now.

 

Thank you all.

A near-miss in the morning…

You can’t always tell how a day is going to go by the way it started.  As humans, we’re always seeking subjective validation of our experience and thinking of it as objective.  For example, today I woke up with a Black Widow Spider next to my face.  Big abdomen, red hour glass, black widow.  As I moved, I noticed its web connected my wall, the mattress and the pillow I was using, so every movement was sending vibrations through the web.  This was a fast spider.  It seemed unhappy with its real estate acquisition choices and frankly, I didn’t blame it.  Much as the first settlers to find out about the San Andreas fault line must have been less than thrilled.

So, I sat up and when the time was right, I crushed the spider beneath the largest wad of toilet paper I could muster.  Ichor on my hands and a venomous arachnid 4 inches from my face.  Not an ideal start to my day.

As the day has progressed, I’ve— 

 

• received a referral for someone who wanted to get solar panels installed on their roof
• discovered a lovely german shandy at Imbibe while I met with someone who will become a real estate advisor for me.
• found some lovely wood from a tree from last weekend’s tropical storm.

 

Had I allowed my disgust at the start of the morning color my mood, I may not have presented in such a way as to get the referral, or the agreement to help from the investor, or noticed the wood. Not to mention if I’d woken up later, I could have gotten my face bitten by a black widow.  

So, here’s my little reminder to myself that a mental reset can not only improve your day, but leave you exultant. 

 

PS.  Oh, and waking up early can have direct health benefits 😉

Ch-ch-ch-changes

For those not in the know, recently I’ve gone through several changes.  Those that I’m openly discussing in public are the following:

I’ve moved

Currently, I’m no longer living in my home state, Minnesota.  You can find me in the environs of Bakersfield, California.  While I love my home state and many of my people there, including my good friend Dan over at DVG Framing (seriously, check out his framing and furniture, it’s amazing), Things were not altogether well and helping me to be the best Luke I could be for me and the people in my life.  As a result-

I’ve Changed Job

I am still working on wood in my spare time, as well as writing, but I am no longer focusing on them. My dad, Dexter and I traveled west to see the eclipse and photograph it with Minneapolis photographer John Anderson, who kindly made modifications for my dad’s Canon 800mm F/2.8 Lens.  We used it to photograph the eclipse and Dexter ran around like a madman taking pictures and taking an interest in the things he could do with the photographs.  After the eclipse, we parted ways and I continued on to my destination, whereupon I joined Noah Nethero and Jake Miller at 1st Light Energy, a solar company that services all of California.  My first afternoon in bakersfield, I stumbled into the Iron Arms Gym, met the owner Ryan and joined on the spot.  (If you are from Bakersfield, and want to lift at a gym focused on “the iron”- join and tell them Luke sent you).  Since then –

I’ve Started Lifting Again

I’m doing a better job of tracking my lifts and been going more regularly thanks to the fact that the Gym is a real gym and 10 minutes for my house. For $25/month I’m treated to loud music, guys who give me something to shoot for in size and strength, and the occasional shot or round robing Mortal Kombat session.  It’s like I designed a gym in a computer to meet my geek, bro and lifting needs.  At week two, my totals are still weak as a kitten (Bench 165, Squat 185, Deadlift 245), but after a nine year hiatus from serious lifting, I don’t deserve to be jumping back in.  But since I’m putting in effort at the all-around self improvement –

I’ve Started Eating Healthier

Myfitnesspal by UnderArmor has been a great help.  It allows me to track my calories, macros and what I’ve eaten.  It’s a bit tricky when eating at non-fast food or non-chain restaurants, but they usually have general guidelines to follow.  Additionally I can use it to track my weight, steps and exercise for the day.  This is has made everything WAY easier to track and a lot of fun.  I do miss habitRPG for the cute anime things, but for diet and fitness, this has been an excellent fit. The app inspired so –

I’ve Started using my Bullet Journal again

For those not in the know, bullet journaling is an offline way to make easily migrated tasks in any Journal-style notebook as well as notate events, cluster things into projects and set goals on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.  It is fantastic.  you can find out more information about it here.  There are SO many different ways to do this, it’s highly adaptable and for the craft-y people reading, yes, you can use all the colored inks, tapes and even pictures you want in order to make it shine.  For those more like me, that’s not necessary.

One of the modifications I’ve made is to use the habit tracker invented by Benjamin Franklin:

Though, I’ve inverted this by marking when I succeed at engaging in the habit I’m trying to develop.  At the end of the month, I tally the number of days I engaged in the habit, divide by the days of the month and look at the success rate.  Then the current month is compared with the previous to see where improvements can be made.  Rather than the ideals Franklin for which Franklin strove, I’ve started farther down the ladder of abstraction.  For now, I’m working on the following behaviors I’d like to make a part of my regular life.

• Completing all tasks I’ve assigned myself for the day

• Walking a minimum of 5,000 steps

• Meditate – this has been the hardest to think about so far.  tonight I just thought about some quotes from Jordan B. Peterson, probably one of the greatest professors of the modern era. Check out his Maps of Meaning series on youtube

• Shower – Hey, hygiene is important, and I wanted a habit I could cross off every morning first thing, like the bed-making suggestion from Admiral McRaven

• Staying Under my recommended Calories

• Read/Listen to non-fiction books and podcasts for at least 30 minutes per day.

• Write – This was the one I wanted most and have put the least consistency into up to this point.  Whoops!  Sorry folks.

• Knock Doors – This is a big part of my new job working with 1st Light Energy and my goal is to knock a few doors every day.

• Gym/Yoga – walking is not enough.  I’ve dedicated Mondays to Deadlift, Wednesday to Bench and Friday to Squat.  Somehow the off days just lack luster and so it’s on those days that I’m going to be filling in with Yoga, Dance, or other physical activities.

• Rosetta Stone – I have been gifted a license for Rosetta Stone German – Levels I-V and want to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.  So far, I’m noticing my comprehension go WAY up, but that’s starting from zero… we’ll see how it goes.  I’m really enjoying the difference between Der hund frisst and Er isst.

The next few are work metrics, not quite daily habits because some are out of my control.

• Appointment set – I’m requiring at least one appointment set per work day either from knocking doors or a networking type meeting.  On days when I’m knocking, my goal is for three appointments set.

• Referrals Received – I’m handing out a lot of referrals, and I’d like to track them.

• Deal Closed – Need appointments for these to close, but I’d like to get an idea of what kind of effort needs to be made in order to actually make a consistent living selling solar.

• Phone Calls Made – Did I call at least one person to follow up on some bit of business?

So far, that’s a lot of change from what I was doing to what I AM doing now. I’m excited to make this into a process rather than a goal.

To Mom

For those who’ve read my blog in the past you may have noticed a central character in my family has been missing.  My mom.

I think this is often an all too common aspect of the way that moms are treated in families for a simple reason.  Moms are more likely to just be there… It’s not fair, but there you go.  Since dads often work more hours or later hours, or in single-income homes all of the hours away from the house, mom is always there.  Constant, trusted and in the background. That makes dad time a special event and mom time, just… time.

There’s mother’s day sure… but that’s just a day for guilt-flowers and cards.  It pales in comparison to the things Mom does on every other holiday.

 

The Holidays

It wasn’t until last year that I discovered how much effort went into making the decades of perfect holidays she has.  Here’s a quick run-down:

Shopping to get the ingredients before a major holiday usually 1-2 weeks in advance

Wrangling family, presents (when applicable) and cleaning all major problem areas of the house before company arrives, often working to get help from surly offspring.

Getting up at 4:30AM to start the cooking of the meal so that everything can be ready 12 hours later, all while making sure that everyone’s “must have” sides aren’t forgotten.  Creamed corn for grandma, Turkey Stuffing for Dad and Luke, Ham Gravy for well… everyone— seriously, this stuff is so good we’ve petitioned for ham to be served at all holiday meals so we don’t miss out—pies, pies pies, and about a metric ton of potatoes to be bogarted by one of her brothers who claimed that 7/8 of a salad bowl filled with potatoes was one serving because he managed to get it on to his plate in one scoop.

Top all of this with the older female relatives lounging in the kitchen from 2PM onward to “help”, but in that way that they have of really just telling you ways to “improve” your process.  Then there are the inevitable arguments and “discussions” which have to be navigated with grace that would put the British Royals to shame.

By the time dishes are ready to be washed after the meal and everyone has managed to disappear before a certain oldest child is wrangled to help (probably for the crime of being too slow to escape himself), mom has been constantly working for 14.5 hours.

And here’s the insane part.  She did it without letting us know what she’s going through, ever.  That’s right.  I didn’t this find out from my mom, I found out from another family member… Talk about grit and class!

Skill

Another way in which my mom is better than yours (feel free to argue, it’s futile), is her absurd levels of competency at pretty much everything.  See, when I was a child, she learned sign language and felt called to be an interpreter.  While working she would often interpret for classes in art, plumbing, electrical, woodworking and innumerable other skills.  Once direction was given, instead of standing around waiting for class to finish, what would she do?  She would work on the techniques she had just been describing (when time and space allowed).  This had two effects: 1) it made her better able to serve those for whom she interpreted (sign language is less explicit and more conceptual than English, so added understanding helps here) and 2) she developed those skills.

She’s saved our family THOUSANDS of dollars of repairs and decorations, not to mention the arts in which she “dabbles” could be sold proudly in any local artist’s gallery.

Cooking

Okay, I know it looks like I went over this before, but really, that was about her making a holiday that was better than any three families have a right to expect without a paid caterer and event coordinator.  My mom can cook. This is in a class of itself because for some reason she has developed the ability to ascertain what is in a dish at a restaurant and how to make it after eating it one or two times.

On top of that, she has a repertoire of go to meals that we were truly lucky to grow up eating.  Spaghetti with homemade sauce, lasagna (yes, it’s my favorite…), holiday fare (see above), banana bread, Tamales and others too numerous to count.  Mom has forgotten more about cooking than I’m likely ever to know.

Moral Support

It’s never easy to go to a parent when you’re having problems, but in the last few years, I’ve come to realize just how good my mom is when a person is in a difficult situations.  I don’t know if it’s a general momish thing, or specific to my own mother, but there are few people I know who can so easily help you transition from being comforted to working on a solution.

Support of morals

One thing my mom instilled in my sister and me was a strong sense of morals.  Some things and just right and just wrong.  While I may not agree with her on all cases and have had to find my own way, she taught me to stick to what I know is right until I know better.  Then when I know better, to do better.

The moral grounding I got with my mom and the realization of just what happens when you break the rules (often actual grounding…) has helped me to avoid a lot of trouble others I’ve known got themselves into.  The biblical education I’ve received has given me stories and lessons to hold to, not to mention made me well-versed in the backbone of post-roman western thought.  I’m really thankful for the spiritual education I’ve received just by being raised by my mom.  There are so many primrose paths I could have wandered down, had I not learned the warning signs by being raised with her.  (there were some other false positives too, I’m looking at you 1980s D&D scare…, but that’s not germane to the subject of how great my mom is).

Basically, I just want to thank you for being you mom and let you know I love you and I’m really glad I have you as a mom.

Choose Your Suffering

Here’s some writing from this January when I was working in a shop.

It’s Friday. I’m tired. I’m sore. I want to give in.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been working at a new job, working with tools and projects that have turned out to be very interesting.  I like the people, I love the work and yet, each time Friday rolls around- I want to quit.

Monday is exciting, Tuesday is good, Wednesday is normal, Thursday is fine, but Friday- somehow Friday is the opposite of what it should be.  Five days of waking up at 5am to get to work by 8am have taken their toll and all I want to do is sleep through the weekend.

Whether it’s the deservedly low pay (I’m the new guy, gotta pay my dues), the lack of sleep, or maybe the fact that it seems to be a universal that the job you sign on for is almost never what the job ends up being what you end up doing, somehow I’m just done by the end of the week.

Most of my adult life I’ve been a freelancer, someone who comes and goes as they please on a project-to-project basis.  Being knocked back into w-4 status feels like a huge step back.

There are really only two things that keep me coming despite the lack of bathrooms, difficult to find first aid kits, and hide-and-seek fire extinguishers.  I’m learning new things constantly and I don’t have anything better to do.

Okay well, when I say I don’t have anything better to do— that’s not exactly true.  I have better things to do, but most of them are either long-term payoffs or they don’t pay at all.  In either case, it is impractical of me to do other than I am doing at the moment.  Where else am I going to find someone who will pay me to train me in skills I want to learn?

Like I said, I like working for the West Virginia Good Old Boy and the Gruff North Woodsman whose laugh sounds a bit like The Penguin on the old Batman television series.

—> Recently I read a book that made the point (though with more profanity) that all of life is suffering.  Poor people suffer because they have nothing.  Rich people suffer because of their worry about their possessions.  Orphans suffer from their lack of family.  The rest of us suffer because of our family.  Life.  Is.  Suffering.

When I read things like this, I usually smile and think of the moment in The Princess Bride before the Man in Black reveals himself to Princess Buttercup who complains that he mocks her pain.  He responds angrily, “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling something!”

Obviously, there are other parts of life than suffering but we all suffer the same.  The lazy suffer because they’re lazy, the ambitious suffer from their ambitions.  Right now, I need to remember this when I’m tired and crabby and want to quit.  I need to remember that this is my suffering because like most people, this is the suffering I’ve chosen.

The question is not if I should suffer gladly, but rather is my suffering worth what I gain from it.  Can I care more about something I want than the suffering it costs to purchase it.  Is it a price worth my time and focus and soul?

New project. Picture frames.

When learning a craft, or setting a goal, it can be helpful to break down the process into several repeatable steps.  Practicing scales, arpeggios, chord changes and etc…  This is good, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying for the novice because it lacks the sense of achievement that you get from completing a project.  Say… learning a song.

This is one reason that in addition to the “hard work” portions of the process, many newcomers to the guitar will learn “Blackbird” by the Beatles.  This project will teach the student several skills- chord vocabulary, moving from position to position on the guitar, timing, among others.

As I make my way through down the path of becoming a woodworker (as an artist, not merely a hobbyist), I’ve been working to learn different steps.  Yes, I’ve practiced planing boards to create perfect paper-thin curls of wood, yes, I’ve milled up planks into boards of even thickness.  Here is my list and the order of projects I’ve added to my woodworking setlist.

Sanding and refinishing–  As a child, my grandfather took me and my cousin Rusty out to sand, refinish and black the metal parts of various tools his father left at the cabin.  It wasn’t very exciting at the beginning (we were hand sanding, no powertools needed), but by the end, we had restored some antiques and brought them to a beautiful working condition. *note: if you do this without asking, you may find you’ve reduced the value of someone’s antiques so please ask first if they’re not your own.

I definitely suggest taking something not too valuable, but well loved, sanding it and finishing it with some sort of beautiful finish like danish oil, tung oil or a wipe-on polyurethane (provided that’s appropriate to the intended use of the piece).

Monkey’s Fists–  While not strictly-speaking a woodworking project, my dad taught me to use a pocket knife to whittle a ball to use as a center around which to build the monkey’s fist. This taught me to think about oversizing the initial sculpt and then continuing to remove.  Learning to see what it will be when the not-ball portion is removed has helped in my ability to previsualize.round which

Presentation Boards– These are SO. MUCH. FUN. Not strictly-speaking cutting boards, the boards I make with my dad are made by jointing boards and then planing them to thickness before putting a bevel on the ends to match the feeling of the live edge.  After this point, the boards are sanded down to 220 grit and/or scraped with a furniture scraper before being finished with a food-safe oil coat.

Canoe Restoration– Once in awhile, you attack a project SO freaking out of your league that you have to get outside help.  Then, your outside help needs to get outside help.  This is basically what happened when my dad and I decided to restore our 1970s Tremblay canoe.  We did this with help from the generous guys over at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum.  Jamie in particular helped us make up techniques and taught us things about respecting the wood that has come in handy in nearly every project I’ve done since 2013.

Scarf Joints
mortise and tenon joints
steaming wood
shaping wood with an angle grinder
bandsaw skills
basic planing and scraping
So much more…

Most recently, in the shop with Dan Gremillion I learned to make picture frames. This was a blast and it’s a perfect outgrowth from what I’ve learned making slab tables (basically large presentation boards).

To make this one sing, we take our plank, joint it, rip it and plane it.  Then when we have nice square stock (a surprising amount of woodworking is about making nice square stock and then making itNOT square….), we rip out a section, miter it and glue it up.

Afterward, we cut grooves in the corners with a table saw jig and glue pieces of either matching or contrasting (I usually like contrasting) wood to create a stronger joint than a simple mitered butt joint (gluing the angled edges together) would provide.

Then we take a VERY sharp chisel and pare away (yes, the same pare as a paring knife, it’s like shaving, but thicker) the excess.

As usual, our final steps involve sanding to an appropriate silky smoothness and finishing with something like Tung Oil, Boiled Linseed Oil, or something similar.

The really cool thing once you get to this point in woodworking you can make a lot of things you’d want to.  A chair, that’s presentation boards with legs stuck on.  A tray?  That’s a picture frame with an extra groove to hold a panel of wood instead of glass.  A box, that’s a tray with a lid.

A dresser?  That’s a complicated picture frame with legs on, that has trays that hold your stuff built in.  See where I’m going?

In addition to loving the time you spend doing your art- if you’re not having fun being bad at it, you probably won’t have fun being good at it- you are building up a repertoire of things you can do.  Little successes that will build up confidence so that when you want to take on a scary task, you can look at it, see what it’s made of and realize you’re made of what it takes to accomplish your task.

What “songs” or “projects” should a beginner use if they want to learn your art?  What things can make them feel successful as they learn the riffs of the craft?

Whew so much going on in the woodshop.

Hey everyone!  It looks like I’m going to be busy for the next few weeks.  I have a lot of projects in the hopper and can’t wait to get to them.

Just finished with a nice little mini-tour in Europe, and I’m glad to be back.  The UK was oddly balmy this march and didn’t really rain much until the day I left.

This weekend I’ll be meeting with a local carpenter and framemaker Dan Gremillion about plans to make some Roubo workbenches, check out the link to see some beautiful examples.  If you want one for your own shop, we’ll be able to give out exact quotes once we have this preliminary round done and will even have options for custom wood selection and some modification.

For those who don’t know the bench is named after the 18th-century French joiner Andre Jacob Roubo and the design, while customizeable, has been considered the pinnacle of workbench design for the past 200 hundred or so years!  Here’s a link to a quick overview for those who want to know more.

In addition, there are some other smaller projects I’ll be working on that raging from boxes to personal items.  This has gotten me inspired to think about what kinds of tables and benches would I use for various interests and hobbies.  My needs for leatherworking are different than my needs as a woodworker and any all-in-one solution will probably be not-so-good at anything specific.

An interesting idea of building based on proportions rather than specific prescribed measurements is addressed by Jim Tolpin in his book “Design by Hand and Eye” and no, this isn’t a golden mean treatise, though many of the whole number ratios we find appealing do approximate the golden mean as the numbers increase.  For those who are familiar with the fibonacci sequence, you already know what I’m writing about.

One of the interesting ideas in that was thinking of visual harmonies the way that one thinks about audible harmonies.  I have an idea swirling around my head about making a series of furniture whose proportions are designed based on a set measurement with each piece acting as a chord in the progression of a famous song.  In this way, the space would act as the beats apart and the whole room would become literally and figuratively harmonious.  Synesthesiacs beware!

Anyway, at the moment, It’s just a rough idea.  But there may be more later.

If you have something you’d like to make out of wood, or would like me to make out of wood for you, please contact me through this website, or check out our etsy store.

Action to Motivation

Sometimes motivation breeds action, but just as often action breeds motivation.

This is one of our pre-release black walnut presentation boards being used as a serving tray/centerpiece for dinner at a friend’s house.

Yesterday (Sunday), I spent the evening with my dad Jake; cutting and sanding some boards that should become our next batch presentation boards for our soon-to-drop online store.  They’ll become slab furniture and presentation boards.  A piece that should last at least four generations if treated well (more on four generations later soon, I promise…)

Afterward, I performed some minor repairs on some leather items in the house and worked on a design for a sheath for one of my knives.

I should probably be exhausted, but for some reason, my stupid mind brimmed with ideas of what I can do next week and the week after! This is especially true given that I’ll be flying to the Tucson Gem Show this weekend and won’t have all of my tools with me.  I could barely sleep.
Today, I spent the day working on the final phase of an ash entertainment center for work. Assisting the designers in the basic skill-related aspects of it and keeping an eye out for questions I have about design.

Afterward, I went home and practiced using a plunge router for the first time to cut a Mortise into some scrap I brought home from work.

Finished up the day playing with West System Epoxy and Waterlox Poly Finish on some walnut. Things are moving and that movement is helps to build inertia.  What kinds of things do you do to build inertia?

 

Why Leather, Wood, and Steel?

The best tools I’ve had are made of wood and steel, my favorite goods have been made of leather.  More so when the items in question have been made by hands that designed them with a purpose, custom-suited to its task or with someone specific in mind.

There is an honesty and a value to shaping materials you love with your hands, your heart and your mind.  There is a manic joy that comes from taking unrefined or raw materials and shaping them into something that can last for generations.

A joy of taking care of your tools, making sure they don’t become pitted, rusted or dull and knowing
that in return… they will take care of you and be great partners.

 

A joy in the frustration that comes from failing at something, when the short-term failure isn’t as bad as the idea of NOT learning that thing we want to know how to make.

There is a magic in learning to exercise your will in such a way that you are able to shape your world, or at least come small objects in it, in a such a way that when you finish your work you look upon what you have wrought and you can say that it is good.

If you’ve never experienced the joy of making something that then exists in the real three-dimensional world, an artifact to explain to future archaeologists who and what you were, I would love to encourage you to do so.

Maybe if you do, you’ll end up with an excitement that looks just a *little* bit frightening behind your dust mask and safety goggles.

If getting your hands cracked and dirty, and your lungs full of sawdust (despite proper precautions)  isn’t for you, I sincerely hope you enjoy the crafts and objects I share with you on the blog.

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