The Downfall of Sears

This morning I had some time to kill in between store visits, so I decided to stop in a local Sears to browse their tool department for a few minutes. I wasn’t expecting much since I knew that Sears had fallen on hard times in recent years, but what I encountered was just plain sad.

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I was so taken back by their tool department that I grabbed my cell phone and took some pictures of  their shelves. There was hardly any selection of any kind. I remember about twenty years ago, Sears was one of the main places to buy tools. They had a huge selection with competitive prices. I used to buy all my tools from Sears. From clamps to power tools, to automotive wrenches. In fact I still own a Craftsman bench top radial drill press that still works like a champ to this day.

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I was wondering if this was a store that was closing so, I looked around for clearance signs, but found none. The only reason I could think of why they don’t have any products on their shelves is because they may be on COD-only terms with the majority of their suppliers. I remember the company I used to work for a few years ago had the same problem. They couldn’t order any product from the manufacturers to resell it to their dealers and ended up going bankrupt within six months. It’s been so bad for Sears lately that they sold the Craftsman brand name to Stanley Black and Decker late last year to generate cash.

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This is what’s left of their machinery selection. A radial arm saw and a cheap looking band saw. There was one old lady working the entire department who looked like she was 82 years old. I remember back in the day, there would be at least three or four clerks around to help you out.

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When things get this bad, there’s no way I would even buy anything from them in the first place. There’s a good chance that if I did buy something from them and the product ended up breaking within the 30 days of my purchase, with my luck, the company’s doors would be closed leaving me high and dry. When was the last time you bought something from Sears? I can’t even remember the last time I did.

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Building a Shed Part XII

While browsing through the Weaver Barn catalogue, Anita saw this cool looking arbor over a couple of doors. We decided that an arbor like this would look really nice over our side window.

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To begin construction on the arbor, I grabbed some scrap cedar I had from building the shed and made about 24 slats. The slats were about 1  3/4″ wide by 13″ long with a little 1″ arch at one end.

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Designing simply from a picture can be tough, so I grabbed a scrap piece of 6″ wide cedar, cut out a 4″ diameter arch and placed it around my corbel to see how to design the overall arbor.

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The distance between the corbels is 6′ with the overall length of the arbor being 87″. I originally planned 25 slats about 3 1/2″ apart, but Anita thought it was a little too many slats.

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We ended up deciding to use 21 slats 4″ apart. I wanted the slats to fit in place so I cut some dadoes in the wood to house the slats. Using  my dovetail saw, router plane, and rasps, I easily cut the dadoes in no time.

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I cut a small dado on each of the slats as well and test fitted the arbor together.

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Since the slats had a dado, I decided the corbels should have dadoes as well to keep everything in line.

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I also wanted the arbor to fit inside the corbels so I cut notches in both the front and back where the corbels would go.

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I fit everything back together and drilled the slats to fit on the front and back. I used stainless steel screws so that they wouldn’t stain the arbor like galvanized screws would.

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Dry fitting everything together the arbor started to come together nicely, so it was time to stain it.

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I stained the arbor the same Benjamin Moore Cedar Bark stain we used on the shed.

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However, after living with the color of the stain on the shed for a few weeks, we weren’t too happy with the color. So, after the first coat of Cedar Bark from Sherwin Williams, Anita mixed in a pint of Leather Saddle Brown with a touch of Fresh Brew stain from Benjamin Moore. Since all three stains were water based, they mixed together well.

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After I applied the new coat, the cedar took on a much warmer color. We were very pleased.

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Anita helped me install the arbor so I don’t have any pictures of it being installed as I wasn’t in the mood to tell her to hold onto the arbor while I stop and take some pictures. I started out measuring the length of the window frame and calculated how much on each end the corbels would need to be in order for the arbor to be in the middle of the window. The window frame was 67″ while the distance between the corbels was 72″. That left me with 2 1/2″ on each side of the window. I marked the spot and then decided how far above the window I wanted the arbor to be. Once I got that measurement, which was 2 1/2″ as well, I nailed the left corbel in place with 2 1/2″ galvanized pneumatic nails. Then, I placed the arbor on top of the corbel, leveled it, and then shot nails in the arbor itself, attaching it through the siding into the studs of the shed. I then screwed my stainless steel screws through my pocket holes attaching the arbor to the corbel to tighten everything up. Next, I took the right corbel and stuck it up into the recess of the arbor, nailed and screwed it up just as I did to the left one. Finally, I screwed and nailed the back side of the arbor to the shed.

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As you can see, I think we made a good decision darkening the cedar stain. The cedar looks richer and blends better with the gray paint.

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A real Stanley No 55 Plane

A few weeks ago I picked up an old Stanley No 55 plane at an auction. In all my years in buying old tools, I’ve never seen an old Stanley No 55 quite like this one. Stanley referred to the 55 as a molding machine in itself. It came with 55 blades which interchange with the plane to cut different profiles. Stanley even provided a booklet with the plane to help the user create some of the different profiles.

  

When I won the plane at auction, all the parts where there except the screwdriver but who cares about the screwdriver other than a collector anyway? What made this 55 special were the two dozen extra blades that the original owner cut and used with the plane.

If you know anything about a Stanley 55, you know that one of the reasons that most examples that are found out in the wild are in pristine condition is because they were hardly ever used. The plane is notorious for being too complicated to set up with its various fence and sliding section adjustments. Most craftsmen simply gave up and stuck it on the shelf to sit and collect dust.

However, this plane was different. Most all of the blades were sharpened and ready to cut. Even some of the complex cutters had scuff marks on them from where they were used.

But what was most intriguing part of the plane was the extra cutters that came with it. These cutters weren’t special cutters available from Stanley at the time. These were probably handmade by the craftsman himself. The mere fact that this craftsman knew not only how to use the blades that came with the plane, but went so far as to make a couple of dozens of extra cutters and put them to use makes me green with envy.

I admit that I have messed around with a Stanley 55 plane in the past. And while I was able to make some of the simple profile blades cut well, I had very little luck with the complex ones. The biggest problem with cutting complex profiles with a Stanley 55 is the fact that the plane rides on skates and does not compress the wood in front of the blade like a wooden complex molding plane does. You often end up getting a lot of tear out in the grain ruining the piece you’re cutting.

So how this craftsman got the plane to work well enough to motivate him to make his own cutters and put them to work baffles me. The one thing I do know about making the Stanley 55 work well is to use straight grain wood and have a very sharp blade to avoid tear out. Apparently this guy was a master with the plane getting these complex blades to work. I just wish he would have left a pamphlet on how he did it.