Kelly’s New Desk

Kelly wanted something to look forward to after her surgery. Specifically, she requested a desk for her shed office from a design in Christopher Schwartz’s The Anarchist’s Design Book. I’ve linked to Schwartz’s blog in the past and can’t say enough good things about his books. In addition to being well written they are just plain beautiful books and the projects strike a perfect balance of good design and ease of construction.

Schwartz specializes in reviving what might be thought of as the furniture of common people, not the fancy and fussy stuff usually associated with middle aged woodworking hobbyists. He draws a lot of inspiration from simple and elegant 18th century and older designs that, paradoxically, seem clean and modern.

This desk uses a common staked leg design that you’ll see on a lot of tables and chairs in the past and to this day in many places in the world. As this was the first time I’ve ever built this type of table, mistakes were made but I’m pleased with the end result.

Schwartz emphasizes hand tools which means that this desk could be made with just a few tools in a small workshop (though it does kinda call for a drill press to cut the circular holes for the legs). In my tiny garage workshop I use a mix of power and hand tools: power tools for the rough milling and hand tools to shape, finish and finesse the joinery. In the stressful weeks leading up to Kelly’s surgery it was therapeutic to spend time in the workshop shaping the four legs of this table with an inexpensive, 100 year old Stanley plane that works as well as the day it was made.

I used readily available hard maple for this project. One of my house rules is that I only use domestic hardwood because I’m worried about forestry practices in foreign countries. It’s also cheaper to get the domestic stuff.

I finished the table with a product I’ve really come to like, General Finish Arm-R-Seal, a urethane resin that has proven durable on past projects around the house and is easy to apply with a rag. The satin finish doesn’t look plasticy like so many other finishes I’ve tried on earlier projects.

Up next in the workshop is this nightstand.

I Just Got a Covid Vaccine

Felted Coronovirus by Brooke Schmeds in Instructables.

Well, maybe. This morning I began my participation, along with 30,000 other people in the world, in the third stage trial of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. A doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center gave me an exam, then a nurse took my temperature, checked my blood pressure and administered a nasal Covid test and drew blood for an antibody test. After a short wait, another nurse gave me an injection that has a 50/50 chance of being the vaccine or a placebo. Then they made me sit around for a half hour to make sure that I didn’t have any adverse side effects (I didn’t).

Here’s how Pfizer describes the vaccine I may have received:

The investigational vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. It is a kind of vaccine that gives a body’s cells instructions to make viral proteins that can be recognized by the immune system. It contains a small part of the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. By delivering the mRNA to the body’s cells, the viral protein is expressed and an immune system response is generated against it, with the goal of preventing COVID-19 disease. The vaccine does not contain any live virus or the parts of the virus that can make a person sick.

In a month I’ll return to Kaiser for a booster shot as well as more visits for blood tests to see if my immune system made antibodies. They also gave me an app to report symptoms as well as my very own personal Covid test kit in case I have Covid symptoms (that, to be clear, won’t be caused by the vaccine but could happen if I, say, start attending TikTok influencer parties in the Hollywood hills). Don’t worry, I’m too old for TikTok influencer parties.

I won’t ever know the results of the antibody tests. If my covid test came up positive they will let me know. Once an approved vaccine is released I’ll find out if I got the vaccine or the placebo. For my troubles they gave me a $200 payment.

I heard about the vaccine trial in a local paper and registered on the Pfizer website immediately. I really want to help people in this crisis but since Kelly is at risk for Covid I can’t do things like volunteer at my local food bank. I thought this study would be a good way to help stop this horrible pandemic while not putting Kelly at risk. Plus I thought it would be interesting to see what a vaccine trial is like from the inside.

If you’d like to sign up for the trial head over to Sign up soon because I think slots are filling up.

Kelly and Chocineal

First off, many thanks to all of you for the well wishes for Kelly. She made it home and up the 30 steps to the house yesterday. The first few weeks after open heart surgery are rough and she’s, obviously, taking it easy today. Is suspect she’ll be up and about faster than after the emergency surgery of four years ago but she’s still in for a long recovery.

Because of Covid I couldn’t visit her in the hospital so I puttered in the garden to distract myself. During the puttering I discovered that our prickly pear cactus has became a host for the cochineal bug. A lot of the prickly pear in our neighborhood has cochineal but, for some reason, it never made it to our place until this year.

The cochineal bug (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that produces carminic acid which is extracted for use as a red textile and food dye. I thought cochineal dying might make for the perfect quarantine craft project until I did some research.  Like many things worth doing, harvesting and dying textiles with cochineal is a process that takes experience and skill.

The Zapotec people of Oaxaca have been practicing this skill for a thousand years. In the video above you can see how cochineal is harvested and some spectacular dye work.

Good News

Kelly made it through an eight hour open heart surgery yesterday. Her surgeon reported that the operation was, in his words, “successful if tedious.” She has a new valve and a repaired aorta. This was a difficult and scary surgery and Kelly has a long recovery ahead of her.

I want to thank all of you Root Simple readers for your kind words and prayers. It means a lot to Kelly and I to be surrounded by so many loving people. I want to also thank our friend Caroline who came over yesterday to sit outside with me and calm me down during an excruciating wait. And many thanks to the clergy and parishioners of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral for helping us prepare for the surgery and for sending me words of encouragement over the past few days.

Because of Covid I can’t visit the hospital which adds another layer of stress to this ordeal. But we are thankful to have good insurance and access to the kind of surgeon who can tackle such a complicated operation. Looking forward to bringing Kelly home in a few days.

A Note

Dear Root Simple readers,
Kelly has to go in for another open heart surgery later this month to fix some issues related to her aortic dissection that happened four years ago. It’s not an emergency surgery this time so we’re optimistic for a good outcome. We are thankful to have insurance and a good surgeon.

I need to take some time off blog posting until after the surgery. I promise to post updates and be back to this blog soon. In the meantime your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.