04 June 2005

It's a Worse Law than I Thought

Update: I just reread more carefully the definition of "specialty wood" that I quoted in my previous post, and I realized that the problem is even worse than I thought.

Here's the definition again:
"Specialty wood" means wood that is:
(a) In logs less than eight feet in length, chunks, slabs, stumps, or burls; and
(b) One or more of the following:
(i) Of the species western red cedar, Englemann spruce, Sitka spruce, big leaf maple, or western red alder;
(ii) Without knots in a portion of the surface area at least twenty-one inches long and seven and a quarter inches wide when measured from the outer surface toward the center; or
(iii) Suitable for the purposes of making musical instruments or ornamental boxes.
Note that sub-section (b) of the definition reads "One or more of the following:"

Now while I suspect the intent of the definition was to limit permitting requirements to the species listed, by putting the species list subordinate to this statement, sub-paragraphs (ii) and (iii) apply to ANY species. Since a good turner can make "ornamental boxes" out of practically anything, this means every single piece of wood less than 8' long that I acquire in, or transport into, Washington state, is subject to the permitting requirements.

I think the Washington State legislature needs a new proofreader.

New WA Law Defining "Specialty Wood" Poses a Hassle to Woodturners

I heard about this woodpoaching problem at the woodturning club meeting Thursday night.

Officials hope a new law taking effect July 1 will help curtail illegal tree harvesters.

The measure requires a permit for transporting "specialty wood," which includes logs of less than 8 feet, free of knots, which can be turned into musical instruments or ornamental boxes.

To read the text of bill 1406, which was passed unanimously by both houses of the Washington State legislature, follow this link. Enter "1406" in the "Search Bills" box, check the box for "Bills 2005-06" and hit the Search button. (I couldn't get a permalink link to point to the actual bill.)

The law is scheduled to take effect July 24, 2005.
It's actually an amended version of the existing law regarding harvesting, sale, and transport of specialty forest products in general, such as cedar boughs, cascara bark, etc. It is the newly added definition of "specialty wood" that has the potential to pose serious hassles to woodturners.

The law requires that the person harvesting, possessing, transporting, or selling such specialty wood must have a permit signed by the original owner of the land where the wood is harvested or salvaged, by the person if not the owner who first harvests or buys the wood, and signed by the local county sheriff's office prior to collecting such wood!

It is in the law's definition of specialty wood that the problem lies for woodturners like myself.
"Specialty wood" means wood that is:
(a) In logs less than eight feet in length, chunks, slabs, stumps, or burls; and
(b) One or more of the following:
(i) Of the species western red cedar, Englemann spruce, Sitka spruce, big leaf maple, or western red alder;
(ii) Without knots in a portion of the surface area at least twenty-one inches long and seven and a quarter inches wide when measured from the outer surface toward the center; or
(iii) Suitable for the purposes of making musical instruments or ornamental boxes.

That little word "or" between sub-paragraphs (ii) and (iii) is the real kicker. As a woodturner, I can make a really pretty ornamental box from a chunk of spalted big-leaf maple two inches on a side or less! If a friend in Vancouver offers me a piece of firewood that they split from the red alder that blew down in their yard, and I take it home to make a wooden flute, I would be in violation of this law if I didn't first trot over to the Clark County Sheriff's office to get the requisite paperwork processed!

I belong to Northwest Woodturners down in Portland. It's usual at club meetings for people to bring in chunks of figured wood (burls, spalted or cury maple, etc.) for the raffle. Sometimes it came from a tree in their own yard, but more often a relative or friend had a nuisance tree taken down, or offered them wood from a windfall. Some of it is green, some of it has been in their shop for years.

Depending upon the species, many of these pieces would qualify as "specialty wood" under this new law. Does this mean I need to have the requisite paperwork to bring this stuff home from a monthly meeting, even though the wood comes from Oregon originally? (The law includes sections on transporting qualifying material into and out of the state.) What if I'm the one transporting a hunk of alder from my own shop in WA to the meeting? I have several hundred pounds of red alder that I salvaged from my old property after the 2004 ice storm. How do I prove ownership of that wood now if I take it anywhere?

I sympathize with the landowners and public officials who have had valuable trees stolen from their property. But this new law, by targeting the small stuff, could make wood acquisition and exchange even among hobbyist turners into a legal morass of paperwork and aggravation.

The most ironic aspect is that, based on the definition I quoted above, all a tree thief has to do is cut the pieces 97" long, load them on the truck, and drive off with impunity.

03 June 2005

Deer Tag

These yearling blacktails are keeping close tabs on the local predators.

Oh, deer

Actually, they are eyeing my two cats, which were spending the day in the dog run. I spotted this tableaux as I was walking past the window, so I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures thru the glass. Digital photography is wonderful!!!

I live in a rural area, and my landlord has planted several acres of the property to Christmas trees. The local troop of blacktail deer often wander near the house or browse the broadleaf weeds that flourish among the baby firs.

A few days back, I was watching three or four does and these two young bucks as they grazed along the far side of the tree field. It was the first really sunny afternoon we had had, after two weeks or so of rain, and the yearlings were having a hard time concentrating on food.

They were browsing close together, and occasionally poking each other with a nose or forefoot. Suddenly one took off running, with the other chasing him full tilt down the length of the field. They disappeared from view down into the ravine along the end, and then burst out again on the near side, racing along in front of the house and back into the field, stopping only when they had nearly reached the does.

I laughed out loud watching them, because they looked just like two kids playing tag in the park.

They stood a few moments straddle-legged, catching their breath and eyeing each other, while the does looked on idly and crunched juicy leaves. Then the one who had been "it" the first time whirled around and lit out for the far corner, the second one in hot pursuit, across and down and around and back again. A pause for breath, a feint or two, and then off they'd go, over and over. Their energy and exuberance were marvelous!

The game continued for maybe ten minutes before they got tired and called it quits. By that time the does were moving slowly across the gravel road into the grove of trees on the far side, and the yearlings followed.

There is no doubt in my mind that these two were having a great deal of fun, and I'm really glad I got to watch them!

01 June 2005

Dibble Dabbling

The property I am renting has a big double dog-run in the back yard. I don't have dogs, and it seemed a shame to have all that good chain-link fencing going to waste, as it were, so last week I bought a bunch of pole bean seeds.

Now, I realize I could just use a pointed stick to plant those beans, but to a woodturner, a much more elegant solution is to make a garden dibble. It's a very useful tool, and a great exercise for turning tapers. I decided to use Ipe, a South American hardwood that is gaining popularity in this country for decking material. It is quite heavy, strong, and very rot-resistant in wet conditions, perfect for my purpose. It is also rather pretty, and not very expensive compared to purpleheart or teak, for example.

The design and turning proceeded pretty much as planned, except for the tapering. I had just reviewed Allan Batty's video on using the skew chisel, so I decided that the skew was just the tool for tapering the dibble. This was not my most brilliant decision.

As I mentioned, ipe is hard and dense. I was planing a seven-inch taper from 1.5" diam at the start down to .25" at the tip. As the taper progressed, it meant that the vertical angle of the skew handle in relation to the toolrest was continually changing, and I had to do that smoothly, while the length I was planing increased with each pass. I also had to be careful not to move the tool too fast or press too hard, or it would leave ridges on the wood. Ridges cause the tool to chatter on the next pass, and the problem compounds.

By the time I had done six or seven passes, both hands were cramping so badly I could hardly hold the skew. It wasn't because I was grabbing the tool hard, but rather from trying to maintain a light touch while moving ever-so-slowly along the tool rest. Eventually I gave up, abandoned the skew, and switched to shear-scraping with a gouge, followed by 80-grit sandpaper.

Things went better after that, as you can see.

The Dibble

The markings (double on inches, single on half-inches) were first scored with the long point of the skew, then burned with wire. The finish is shellac with a touch of walnut oil added, followed by beeswax. I used dental floss to clean the beeswax out of the grooves so it looks neater.

I plan to make more ipe dibbles. But I've decided I will do the tapering with the roughing gouge next time. Not only will that be much faster, it will be much easier on my hands!

I haven't tried using the dibble yet - I want to take it to Thursday's woodturning club meeting first. My beans will just have to wait till the weekend to be planted. Maybe by then, my hands will have stopped aching!

, ,

My HCOA Survey Response

I've been a member of the Handyman Club of America for several years. I find their magazine quite informative, with interesting projects, and their subscription price is reasonable. However, they recently sent me a hefty packet of info for a Member Survey. My reply is probably not quite what they were expecting!

Here's my original email, sent early on a Friday afternoon:
Dear Sirs,

I recently received your Handyman Product Survey packet. After selecting several items that I thought I might want to try out, I decided to check on the Net to see how much of a discount your Member Prices would be, since that perceived benefit was definitely an incentive to me.

I checked out four items. The results, to put it mildly, were not what I was expecting.

1) Solar Mole Repeller: I could not find a product picture that exactly matched this, but I did find a very similar product, with the same name, at a couple of lawn-and-garden sites. Internet Price: $24.99. Handyman Club Member Price: $39.95

2) 16pc. Titanium-Coated Forstner Bit Set: I found a set that appears identical in all respects except for the layout in the box, at www.cumminstools.com, which is a retail hardware site. Cummins' price: $29.99. Handyman Club Member Price: $59.95

I realize you could make a case that these two examples were not exact matches, and that your offerings are much higher quality and represent a good value. However, I checked two more products.

3) GearRatchet Vortex Socket System with Case: I found this identical product quickly at www.autopainterssupply.com, a retail auto supply site. Their price: $45.99. Handyman Club Member Price: $59.95.

4) Grundig Outdoor Radio, Model FR200: 21st-century-goods.com sells this identical model, in choice of two colors no less, for $39.99. Not only that, but the most current L.L.Bean catalog offers the identical model FR200 radio, made especially for them by Eton in five colors, with nylon carrying case included, for $39.95. Handyman Club Member Price: $49.95

I have been a member (#xxxxxxxx) of the Handyman Club for several years. I like your magazine, and I thought you truly were committed to using the buying power of the club to get good deals for your members.

However, this survey was a real eye-opener in that respect. The sites I checked are all retail vendors - these are not Ebay-auction or closeout bargain prices that I found. In EVERY case, your Member price is 20% to 50% HIGHER than the retail prices on comparable or IDENTICAL products.

This is simply a rip-off. You are betraying the confidence of your membership that this product survey and try-out offer repesents a good deal. I would not object if your Member prices were equal to or even 5% or so higher than retail. That wouldn't be a bargain, but understandable for the advantage of a 30-day trial. But to pick four products out of twenty-four and find they are all exorbitantly over-priced, certainly leads me to conclude the same is true of the other twenty products offered.

I have no intention of completing your survey or trying out any of the offered products. Not only that, but I sincerely regret now that I recently renewed my membership. I will not make the mistake again of assuming that you are offering me any benefits except the information in the publication. I do find the magazine useful, so I will allow the current subscription to run out. But I do not intend to continue my membership beyond that point.


Now the quick-eyed among you may have already realized that I made an embarrassing, if quite common, faux pas in the third-to-last paragraph. Fortunately, a friend called me just after I had sent this, and when I read it aloud, pointed out my error. With a bit of thought, I was able to turn it to my advantage and send the following correction less than an hour after the original.
Dear Sirs,

After careful review of my recent email to you, I realized that I had made an error in my statement regarding the difference between your Handyman Club prices, and the prices I found on the Internet. The statement should read: "In EVERY case, the retail prices on comparable or IDENTICAL products are 20% to 50% LOWER than your Handyman Club Member Prices."

To state that information correctly in the order I originally used, it should have read: "In EVERY case, your Member price is 25% to 100% HIGHER than the retail price on comparable or IDENTICAL products."

I regret the confusion that my original email may have caused in this regard. I regret even more that I did not use stronger language to convey my disgust at your attempted ripoff of the membership.


I do give credit to their customer service department. I received the following personalized reply on Monday, two days earlier than I expected. (The reply only copied my original email, so I do not know if the gentleman who answered me saw my correction email as well.)
Dear Member,

Thank you for doing this comparison. I have forwarded this to the Marketing department to see if we can not get the prices changed. I am sorry but we do not match prices but you may see them lower in the future. Sorry for the inconvenience.

[[ The above was followed by this standard form-letter paragraph. ]]

Please visit our website at: www.handymanclub.com/ to change your mailing or email address. You can also fill out a Product Test application online. You are a valued member with us, so be sure to let us know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Thank you for being a Member.
Member services

I certainly hope that in the future, their Marketing department does a good bit more research beforehand!