Image for post
Image for post
Photo by zibik on Unsplash

Set and Setting in the Sixties

There were two schools of psychedelia in the late sixties, the Baba Ram Das/Timothy Leary East Coast spiritual school, and the West Coast Ken Kesey blow your mind school. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area so of course I was loyal to the Prankster dharma, the let it wail, superhero mindset. At the League for Spiritual Discovery, Leary and Ram Das would carefully manage what they called set and setting, the guided psychedelic trip that is very similar to the therapeutic and personal growth trips resurgent today. Out west we tended to “drop” a tab and then drop…


Image for post
Image for post

Everything Old is New Again

For uncounted generations people have passed their trades and crafts down from the old and experienced to the young and eager. The industrial revolution dismantled this reality and remanufactured it, substituting interchangeable parts for hand fitted ones, and user manuals for traditional knowledge passed from teacher to student. Woodworkers once learned from journeymen, or if they were lucky, from masters. In the process they developed a carpenter’s eye capable of visualizing the increments of length rather than just transferring them from a measuring tape, hands that felt fine gradations of thickness with a well tutored finger, not a feeler gauge.


Image for post
Image for post
The Beast

How Far Gone is Too Far Gone?

Not long after I plunged into hand tool wood working I realized I would need some hand tools. I had minimally restored the Stanley #7 joiner plane that started this madness, jointed and glued up the 2x4s for the top of my low Roman Work Bench (thanks Rex Krueger), and now I needed to flatten and smooth that top. Off to Ebay for some shopping, and before too long I had a fairly clean #5, also known as a “jack plane” to whip into shape. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by abdurahman iseini on Unsplash

One can be good, the other can be dangerous

For all the news of the recent thaw between Israel and Arab states like Saudi Arabia I’ve seen no mention of the sort of alliance forming from these deals. The Trump administration chose to hold Saudi Arabia close, so close that the U.S. wouldn’t lodge a protest over the Saudi murder and dismemberment of journalist and U.S. resident, Jamal Koshoggi. With the addition of Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan to the list of Muslim countries making deals with Israel, the Trump administration has established a clear strategic thrust, possibly on purpose.


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Deann DaSilva on Unsplash

How about reparations for the 20th century?

I’ve been doing my pandemic house cleaning lately and I stop every so often to peruse an artifact dug up from the rubble; a week ago it was my Mom’s 1947 UCLA year book. I flipped to the index listing the pages where the undergrads could be seen, and riffling through to find her Freshman Class Vice President pic I became aware of the sea of white faces.


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

This Ill Wind Blew Some Good My Way

Four decades ago I spent a summer in the Oregon mountains harvesting wood for bowed instruments like violins, violas and string basses. The tops of these instruments, also called bellies, are carved from spruce, a light coniferous wood with a superior weight to strength ratio. I worked with a brilliant and crazy old guy who taught me the careful selection necessary for this kind of timber. We would use an “increment borer” to drill the trunk and extract a core section, looking for evenly and closely spaced growth rings. He would turn a practiced eye up the tree to calculate…


Image for post
Image for post
Rusted with a texture like pebbled leather

One old Relic helps another

I take special pleasure in restoring old tools. Maybe I’m atoning for all the tools I left laying out on the wet lawn when I was 10, maybe finding worth in something once valued and now discarded hits close to home. It could just be my Scotch soul. This old beast was encrusted in a heavy layer of rust, but when I worked the bevel over my diamond stone there was bright hardened tool steel underneath, and tool steel isn’t cheap.

Much of this restoration is patience and elbow grease. I have a stone sink…


Image for post
Image for post

The last year has been easier for me than for most people, but then the several years before 2020 had made the ledger a little more equal. In the fall of 2019 I moved my 98 year old dad out of my home and into an assisted living center, then started to rebuild a life in retirement. I bought an antique Stanley joiner plane off of Ebay, figuring to fabricate some wood embellishments for my drift boat, then watched some YouTube tutorials on restoring antique hand planes… and fell down a rabbit hole of hand tool woodworking.

After 45 years…


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Sofia Zubiria on Unsplash

The Power of Cultural Selection

Two years before Charles Darwin embarked on his paradigm shaking voyage to the Galapagos Islands another famous naturalist and proponent of evolution lay on his death bed. For all of his many accomplishments, biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck is remembered, and usually ridiculed for his hypothesis on the inheritance of physical features. …


the power of stockpiled variation

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Danielle Barnes on Unsplash

The concept of the survival of the fittest has soaked as deeply into our popular culture as it has into our science. The assumption that “thinning the herd” is good for the herd has become nearly axiomatic in both, so accepted that media wags award “Darwin Awards” to people who find particularly dumb ways to die and evolutionists talk of selfish genes who compete to win the selection contest. The assumption itself often goes unexamined.

An unconscious companion to thinning the herd perspectives is the assumption that the herd works in partnership with natural selection to accomplish the thinning. The…

John Griswold

Master carpenter, watercolor artist, beat up old jock and somewhat reluctant care giver, owned by Black Lab Bo who considers two tennis balls a minimum mouthful

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store