Misbegotten Green


You cannot escape the drone of green, efficient, renewable, sustainable, and/or carbon neutral products. People do want to conserve, whether to save money or to build a better world. But like any trend, the green one comes with experts and the rush to embrace the new without understanding it. Life imitates art from the Seinfeldian Sheryl "un cuadrado" Crow up to Congress phasing out the incandescent light bulb by 2012. The compact fluorescent light (CFL) will indeed get a boost from that. But aren't you a bit wary of something that vapor locks a state agency dealing with a broken one? 

Maine DEP

CFLs produce light but do so with baggage. They are slow to provide usable output and what they output is unusual in spectrum. They fail if subjected to cold and fail sooner than the package proclaims. As mentioned, they may also induce catatonia if broken. Which brings me to the Wassily Chair. It is a design icon still cited for use of material and process that remain cutting edge. It has been in constant production for 80+ years and exhibited in many cognoscente venues. It is the chair that launched 1,000 ships. However, is it too much to ask that a chair be comfortable to sit upon? The Wassily is horrifying in that regard & yes I owned one. You don't sit on so much as fall into. Then it immobilizes you like a Victorian pelvic clamp. Just try and find that negative in print. 

That strikes me as how many green products today are promoted such as CFL's; the new Wassily Chair. Those who have apparently not used nor understood major aspects of green items recommend them nevertheless. Perhaps it is due to the insatiable content demand cycle that the web requiress? The downside is people taking this as gospel and being let down by its lack of value. Perhaps it delays them adopting or avoiding altogether a useful green product based on that experience? That would truly be a shame but people do respond that way. Just wait until they grok the ramifications of ethanol as a fuel and see where that goes...

©2008 torkbox   

Very Basic Survival


Power failures put things into perspective such as how will one make coffee? Faced with that scenario last month, an earlier plan was executed and an ultralight stove built from Heineken cans. Variants of this stove are legion but after review the Penny was the one. Roughly 15 minutes after starting there was a merry gas jet & boiling water. Coffee was served and food cooked throughout a typical blizzard & blackout; the New England Blue Plate Special. Many thanks to Mark Jurey for his great site.

Penny Stove

Photo Credit


©2008 torkbox 

Beverly Shear


Some time ago I came across the below site while researching which metalworking tools were "to die for". There is great info within and worthwhile to read through. You don't need everything listed for a useful shop, just the tools for the type of work you do. I took my blacksmithing instructor's advice to only buy tools when I could not make them. The Beverly Shear was one such tool. 

The Beverly allows you to free-form cut metal sheet into virtually any pattern or shape. The trick is that the shear is throatless. If you look you can see the blades are offset so that 1/2 of the work goes above work surface & the other half below. This lets you make tight turns & scrolls in metal sheet without having to reset anything. The Beverly lets you work in the abstract quite easily.

armour archive

©2008 torkbox

Fireplace Poker


I wanted to make this look at home in New England but not archaic. Using a whaling harpoon as the starting point I developed it for the materials and stripped off needless detail. My stuff always starts out with more junk than they end up with. The ergonomics of the handle and overall balance is superb. It reigns over all logs.


Mild steel, purpleheart, hot set rivets


Steel ground smooth, mild polish, heat blued, oil wipedown


Anvil, engineer's hammer, drill, file, rivet set, grinder, buffing wheel, oxy/acetylene torch


©2008 torkbox