ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Where are you and where are you going?
ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

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Back from a small work vacation in Western Virginia. If I didn't know any better I would have just assumed I was still in Eastern Kentucky. Same terrain, same accents, same coal towns. Same poverty. My highlight of the trip was seeing two black bears coming off of this mountain. They didn't stick around long enough for me to get a picture unfortunately.

I haven't worked for anyone else lately other than this small trip (helped build a deck for my buddies daughter) so my life has gotten fairly predictable these days. I wake up, have a cup of coffee, check out the internet for an hour or two, go for a hike (seeing lots of animals), and then I work on my property in various ways. I like to eat somewhere along the way and I've been watching quite a few movies too. Sounds ideal, doesn't it? It is but I know that I am going to have to do some other things in my life to mix things up. I can't describe the feeling but if my routine stays stagnant I become uncomfortable and I don't know why. It shouldn't matter but I get a bit uneasy with comfort. God knows I've worked hard to get into this position. Anybody else share those feelings?

One of the things I've been doing is restoring this old work chest. I've tried very hard to keep all of the original screws and wood as you can't easily replicate the patina of old wood or hardware. But I've had to make compromises and for that I've used the oldest wood I have which is some pine out of my old house which is almost 80 years old. Still doesn't match however but with time and use it will take on a nice hue and color.

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I started with the lid. I took off all of the original holders because all of the original tools were missing. I designed a new holder for three squares, two framers and a large try square. The try square is sort of the key that holds everything together and works quite nicely.

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I thought this turned out nicely. I've got two crosscut saws and one rip. I created a slot for the saws with a router plane and made new handle holders. Everything fit just right in the end.

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And I built a new till because it was clear that there was a third one that was missing. Plus I needed the box for tools! The new till is identical in technique and sizing (wall thickness) to the originals.

My next step is to organize my planes and braces which will fit on the bottom of the toolbox. I'll show that when complete and I will probably start a thread on how to make these tools user ready too at some point. My goal here is to replicate a working set of tools a carpenter would have used 60 to 100 years ago. I am still missing some crucial tools such as a period plumb bob, trammel points, dividers, backsaw, etc. but I know of a place where I can easily find them so I'll get them in the near future.

sky
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by sky »

Beautiful work on the toolbox, and what a nice collection of tools!

I also get to a point of routine and then feel the need to break the routine. It is a cycle, I try to make sure everything is maintained and ready for winter (or the next season), and then I run out of things to do and start to go crazy, not so much with boredom as a need to have a project.

ertyu
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ertyu »

ffj wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2023 7:48 pm
Sounds ideal, doesn't it? It is but I know that I am going to have to do some other things in my life to mix things up. I can't describe the feeling but if my routine stays stagnant I become uncomfortable and I don't know why.
I get like this too. Part of why i'm doing the expat thing is that when i get like this, I move. Partly, it's a cop-out: moving brings with it a new environment to learn and investigate, a new apartment with the related choices of do i need to fix up anything on it and how am i going to set it up, searching my environment for things i;ll need for it etc. After a while, my environment is not stimulating anymore and the lack of stimulation brings with it lack of desire to explore: i've already been to the places i thought were cool to check out. Moving provides a "fix" but I don't know if I can say it resolves anything. Maybe it's displacing the accessible to me kind of stimulation for some other stimulation that i truly need, idk. Part of it is wanting to escape from myself - probably doesn't apply to you but i hope id somehow shed myself and reinvent myself with each move. Problem is, i still bring my same old brain and history with me, and a couple of self-fulfilling prophesies later, im back where i started.

While this probably doesn't apply to you in its vast majority, my advice would be to think about the kind of stimulation you need. You used to have what I imagine was a pretty stimulating job. What were some ways in which you enjoyed the kinds of stimulation in provided? How else could you get the same sort of stimulation: the good without the bad?

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

@sky

Oh I've got more tools just as cool. I love the fact that not only do they look great but all are fully functional and I absolutely love the patina an old tool or gun presents. I want a tool that has been used and taken care of for the future.

@sky, ertyu

Breaking any cycle is good but I've found as I've gotten older a lot of "newness" doesn't have the bang it once did when I was younger and not as experienced. If I weren't married I would probably just change countries every few years but if I want to keep my wife that isn't happening, haha. We've been together over 30 years so best not screw this up now.

I often wonder when I am really old and physically limited what the fuck I'm going to do with my time. Because the thought of sitting in a house day after day would drive me mad so hopefully I go out long before that situation transpires.

I'm pretty good at finding ways to entertain myself and be productive most days but sometimes I sit back and wonder if I shouldn't be doing something more important and that is the reason I feel a bit disconnected I think. It's one of the reasons I still do outside work, just to help others out. Oh well, what a problem to have, right? I can think of much worse problems.

ertyu
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ertyu »

ffj wrote:
Thu Nov 02, 2023 11:25 am
Oh well, what a problem to have, right? I can think of much worse problems.
Hm, I'd say trying to build a life/work that feels meaningful is important in its own right. The choice is denied to one when one still works: why wonder about meaning when you have no choice, you've got to work your job? It's worthwhile and significant to discuss what a fulfilling life is and how one gets there.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by AxelHeyst »

Beautiful toolbox, thanks for sharing the pics. I’d like to do something similar one day.

A few months of comfort makes me go stir crazy. I like the idea of having a tempo or rhythm to life as opposed to a balance. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting dynamicism. It’s fun to play with different speeds, tempos, styles, etc to how we fill our days. Too much change and I get frustrated because I don’t spend enough time to drop in to a build or project. Too little change and the wanderlust makes me grow bored. The solution is simple: plan hard or very different kinds of experiences at different time scales.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

@ertyu

The problem is I'm old enough now that I've experienced a lot in life and it takes a lot more to impress me to the point my receptors in my brain start firing off. That and I can envision how many scenarios play out before the first step has begun. I am insufferable with movie plots for example. :lol: No patience at all for tired storylines, and I'm old enough now where some steamy scenes aren't going to make up for a crappy script.

So, as Axel has alluded to, you've got to work at providing meaning to your life which can be quite a challenge at times.

@Axel

Whoever built that box did a really good job. It's simple but done right and from what I can tell those are one piece sides and tops, I think from poplar, and they are still flat and stable. I paid $60 for it from an Amish guy in Holmes County Ohio.

I'll keep you posted on my next steps with the box and tools.

ertyu
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ertyu »

I had a thought so I figured I'd share in case it's useful -- please feel free to disregard if it doesn't vibe. One style of youtuber I personally find very inspirational are people who crowdsource funding from, say, patreon subscribers, and then produce youtube content where they use their skills to somehow assist someone struggling who could never otherwise be able to afford to hire help. Think extreme cleaning, landscaping, etc. Some sort of physical work/skill. "Fund my trip to go give haircuts to the homeless for a day." Etcetera.

I haven't seen a channel that offers handyman help or help using your many valied skills, though im sure they must exist. A channel like that might combine your youtubing/making videos interest with your "i'm using my work in a way that's meaningful" need with the "I need something to get me out of my routine and shake me up every now and then" need - you could occasionally travel to interesting places and meet unusual people in the course of doing things, and that could be part of the channel's charm.

Wasn't sure if it would be something that "fits" but I thought of it and I figured I'd drop a line on the off-chance it sparks a useful line of thought.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

@ertyu

I kind of do that with friends, sans YouTube. I just got back from Virginia helping a friend build a deck for his daughter. He paid for my meals and hotel. I've got a friend in Hawaii that has offered to buy my plane ticket, house and feed me if I'll come help him build a room addition. I've stayed there before and he gave me a car to drive while he was at work which was great.

I watched an old guy on YouTube who lives out in the desert and he had set up a virtual store for things he needed and if you wanted to support him you could buy whatever was in his cart. I was like "what!?" People were buying him everything from a chainsaw to paper towels. I don't know if I would feel comfortable doing that to be honest. Other YTers will set up a Patreon Page and ask you to "buy them a cup of coffee" or sell you shitty mugs or T-shirts for very high prices.

But I like your idea because somebody gains something from it. I just think you would have to be a bigger personality than I am capable and you would have to lose your anonymity. I've got people telling me to drink a cup of coffee before I make a video because I'm so unanimated and I assume boring, haha. Imagine having to sell a trip with a feel-good ending. Well, imagine me having to do that. ;)

Thanks for thinking of me.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

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Been a while, time for an update. Thanksgiving has come and gone, we had the whole family over and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was nice not having to travel anywhere and the food turned out well across the board.

It's gotten colder so I decided it was time to take care of six or seven large tree stumps left over from cleaning out a fence row. These things are a nuisance when mowing grass and trimming the fencerow and kinda ugly to boot. Time to go!

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I would put some charcoal briquettes on top, pour some diesel fuel over the whole stump (diesel won't flash on you), and cover it with firewood. I would then light it up and make sure it remained burning until the stump was gone. Usually that meant throwing more firewood on top. Some of these stumps burned for 3 or 4 days straight.

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It leaves a much larger hole than I anticipated but nothing some extra dirt can't fix. Fortunately I was able to borrow a neighbors tractor to fill all of these holes. Much, much better!

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I've also been working a bit on the side performing electrical work at the moment. I am not licensed, and the homeowner doesn't care. But I have successfully wired two other homes and a couple of shops so I have that experience. I'm really enjoying the work as it requires problem solving with the logistics and really if you follow local code as well as the National Electrical Code it's hard to mess it up for residential. Just follow the rules. Anyway, here is a shot of the home I wired but more importantly I wanted to show what all of these beams and trees that I had to lift look like semi-finished:

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And I finished my tool chest. I think it looks pretty cool with all of these old tools. My goal was to be able to access any tool I needed without excessive movement of other tools. The only compromise I had to make was the new till; in order to access the bottom tools it has to be removed.

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I think I have a fairly complete carpenters chest here. I do need some more tools however but fortunately they are small: I need a period plumb bob, a set of dividers, trammel points, small drill bits, compass, a number 13 auger bit ( I have one but it's the wrong style), a mortise gauge, a couple of regular screwdrivers, and a couple of backsaws (one rip, one crosscut). Possibly a sharpening stone also.

My next goal if to take each tool and clean and tune them. The whole point of this chest is to have a working toolbox. That and make a rolling stand for it because it is quite heavy. Oh, and I need to fix the lock on it.

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Western Red Cedar
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by Western Red Cedar »

That tool chest looks great! I love to see well-maintained, vintage gear that continues to serve a purpose and can be passed on through generations.

The framing also looks great. My dad used full trees for most of the supporting beams in his cabin and tiny house. I think it adds a nice, homey feel to the structure.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

I think it does too just because the tools look so good. The outside of the box has a great patina as well with my only objection being that it is green. I think repainting it at this point would ruin any character it has so I am going to live with it.

I'm probably going to go to this place and trade in all of my other tools ( I've got a bunch that just sits in totes) for the other tools I need. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROgFy3w1OZw

Fair warning, if you ever visit prepare yourself to be overwhelmed if you have any interest in old tools. Any tool that you've been searching for is there. I managed to look around for a couple of hours and not buy anything although some of the tool chests are spectacular and when the guy working there mentioned a $6,000.00 chest I asked to look at it. It was impressive.

The painters should be done today so I am interested to see the contrast between the wood and drywall. I've got to go back and put in all of the outlets, lights, switches etc. It looks good but man that was a lot of work and money for those beams including labor. Definitely one of a kind house though.

theanimal
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by theanimal »

I love the look of the timbers and that chest looks beautiful. I’m interested in following along on your tool restoration. I got some hand tools of my own that I need to restore.

Also, it never crossed my mind that you could just burn the stumps. I’ve never seen anyone do that before. It seems far more practical than dealing with digging them up or grinding up the tops. Thanks for sharing.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

Cool, that motivates me on the restoration.

Just remember it is a slow process on the stumps and once they start burning it is a several day commitment. The reason I bring that up is because you need to pay attention to the weather, especially any high winds forecasted. They will be burning without looking like they are on fire until you come back later and there is a large hole in the ground. You don't want the winds to start anything else on fire.

I also have a small stump grinder which I use for smaller trees. Much quicker but it is limited on the size of the stump. And it is heavy, heavy, heavy. A couple of hours maneuvering that beast around and you'll be tired.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

I am a criminal. Apparently...

I have just had a day that just makes me cynical as hell. Which I try to avoid, with retiring early one of my best strategies. I don't mind conflict as long as I get to punch back but today wasn't that day. Today was a day of eating a shit-sandwich and nodding along as someone drunk with power berates you.

As I alluded to in earlier posts I have been doing the electrical work for a house my buddy built. As a favor to him as well as a chance to make some extra money. In the process I've really grown to like the homeowner as well and I am fond of him. So when he asked me to be present for the electrical inspection today I said of course.

Now we made some mistakes, namely he didn't get the rough-in inspection done before the drywall was installed ( I don't know why). And I don't have a license to perform electrical work. In my defense he explicitly stated that he was staying off of the radar on this house build by running a sub-panel off another house next to the new one, which wouldn't have required an inspection. Then he changed his mind 3 or 4 times and finally decided he would just put in a new meter which requires an inspection. I was also very clear before I began that I was not licensed and he said he didn't care. Homeowners have certain leeways that they can pursue and if you are looking for consistency here then don't, because there isn't any. If work is considered "old", then you can do almost anything without pulling the first permit. For example, in my old house I cut the roof off, added a second story, ran all of the electrical and plumbing and finished it out without any permits or inspections. When I built a small barn without power I had to get a permit because it was "new" ground. Go figure.

As soon as this dude (the inspector) got out of his car I knew we were in for a ride. He was pissed that he wasn't called before the drywall was up and demanded my electrical license number, knowing full well I didn't have one as the homeowner explained the situation before he showed up. Then he proceeded to tell me how I was breaking the law and all of my work was illegal. And that he normally forces people to rip the drywall out so he can see behind the walls. The homeowner had taken pictures of every wall before drywall and he said he didn't care, didn't want to see the photos. Fair enough, I've had my ass chewed out before but this dude would not let it go. Either refuse to do the inspection and go home or do it and shut up, you've made your point.

Now, he finally started the inspection and let me tell you he looked at my work closer than a Democrat looking at Trump's tax returns. He was positively itching to find anything wrong and he did, which is normal. All small and easily fixable: One breaker needed to be replaced with a GFCI, a ground rod was too close to the other so we needed to add one more, a light fixture was the wrong type in a closet and needed to be replaced, a bathroom receptacle was six inches too close to a tub and would need to be moved over, the meter base conduit needed more strapping, and some of the wires in the crawlspace needed further support. About four or five hours work to fix the problems. Not a big deal. Agreeable inspectors will nicely tell you what needs changed and to call them when you've completed the work. That's the way it normally works.

All I cared about was whether the work was good. He gave me a back-handed compliment accidentally towards the end (saying he would have refused everything but the work was pretty good) but made sure to remind me that I wasn't ever to do this kind of work again. I was just helping a friend I said.

So what's next? The homeowner has to hire a licensed electrician to make those fixes and then and only then will this lovely man come back and do the final inspection, which is testing the circuits. I am taking a break from working for others as a handyman/contractor. I don't need the money and I sure as fuck don't need the silliness of what happened today.

delay
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by delay »

Thanks for your journal update! That must feel frustrating. As a society we make more and more rules to avoid smaller and smaller risks.
ffj wrote:
Tue Jan 23, 2024 11:31 pm
I am taking a break from working for others as a handyman/contractor.
Part of an inspector's job is to add complexity to unlicensed work. Enough to discourage, not so much that you become angry. It looks like he succeeded on that point.

Henry
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by Henry »

ffj wrote:
Tue Jan 23, 2024 11:31 pm
as someone drunk with power berates you.
Did this asshole have a clipboard? The only people worse than those who work with clipboards in their hands are people who work with whistles in their mouths. And the only people worse than people who work with a whistle in their mouth are those people who work with a clipboard in their hands and a whistle in their mouth. After those people, you got Josef Stalin and there's really no one after that guy.

ffj
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by ffj »

And my wife is irritated with me over the whole situation. She reminded me that you can't even cut someones hair without a license to which I proclaimed thank God I didn't cut the homeowners hair too or she would be bailing me out of jail. She didn't really appreciate that joke but she's right to some extent. I should have been more careful.

However, I refuse to live my life constantly looking over my shoulder over some perceived authority or risk run amok. I really enjoy running with people that operate on the trust system as it lends authenticity to life, which is what I was doing on this job. There was no contract, I gave him a very fair price, I didn't misrepresent myself nor did I perform work that was above my capability. And if the inspector hadn't run me off the job I would have fixed all of those issues in a day without charge.


@delay
Frustrating for sure. I know I broke the rules but what is important to me is whether the job is correct or not. This guy's opinion matters not to me on a personal level but only if the work is good. If he really wanted to wound me he would declare my work is horrible, but it's not. ;)

@henry
Flashlight, pen, and clipboard. He had the demeanor of a cop that asks questions to incriminate yourself. But at some point he should have paused at my honesty and the fact that I was even present for his tongue-lashing. He relayed a story of how another unlicensed guy who took advantage of a little old lady and stole her money was charged with being unlicensed in addition to the theft charges. I said, yeah, but I'm not stealing from anyone and my work is good. That shut him up briefly. I just had to wonder if he thought I was a crook why I would even be there? And then he would tell stories about himself as if we were buddies? WTF? You want to go fishing sometime? :D

Henry
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by Henry »

This is touchy subject but I think the licensing issue is not just a government charging fees cash cow but is being pushed by tradesman to keep out competition. I won't go into who that competition is but suffice it to say I don't think the average licensed electrician wouldn't give a rat's ass if they knew you, a retired firefighter were doing the job. We know the license hypocrisy because the licenses that are issued and need retesting but are not are driver licenses. I live amongst a bunch of people who are licensed to kill because they passed a test they took 70 years ago but I don't see the clipboard mafia descending upon them.

jacob
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Re: ffj's Early Retirement (round 2)

Post by jacob »

Around here licensing pertains to certain kinds of electric, plumbing, and exterior visuals. The overall guiding principle is disallowing issues that can either kill/injure the home owner (or the next buyer) and others or depress the values of other people's houses. People are generally free to mess up the interior of their own home as long as it doesn't potentially kill anyone. In Cipolla terms, people are allowed to be helpless (hurt themselves---like a bad toilet install or a leaky faucet is okay), but they aren't allowed to be stupid (hurting others in the process of hurting themselves---like wiring neutral to ground) or bandits (helping themselves by hurting others---like painting the house pink).

Laws are essentially a societal tool. They service society in two ways, justice and stability, which aren't necessarily the same thing even if it works in the same direction. Catching violations removes problems directly. Indirectly, catching violators (even if the particular violation appears immaterial) and making an example out of them makes other people less likely to commit future problems of their own when they hear about it.

Licensing, while having the appearance of a racket, also serves to assign responsibility and consequences, which in turn makes people behave differently (the stability part). For example, someone w/o a drivers license may be just as good at driving as something with a license, just like someone with a license may be just as terrible as someone w/o one. However, the driver w/o a license is substantially more accountable because the consequences of driving w/o one are much harsher. The result is that those who drive around w/o licenses are either extra careful (never discovered) or put in prison (if discovered). Both are better than neutral outcomes---not for themselves obviously, but for others. Conversely, those who drive around with a license has at least received some level of instruction even some didn't learn anything. Again, both are better than the neutral outcomes.

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