Thanks bartender, may I have another?

john chismar bartender tin toy

I enjoy browsing estate sales every now and then. A few weeks ago the sale of a local artist’s estate caught my attention. I picked through the rubble during the last hours of the last day seeking bargains. I filled a shopping bag with some hand tools, brass cabinet hardware and a disheveled tin bartender for under fifteen bucks. The major winter storm this past weekend provided a perfect time to stay inside and play with my new toy!

john chismar bartender tin toyNot surprisingly, activating the power switch on the base did nothing. Examining the bottom of the toy for a battery compartment I found a printed disclaimer cautioning, “If the bartender ceases to emit smoke, it means that the batteries are weak.” Wait, the toy is incorrectly functioning if it isn’t emitting smoke? Awesome! It was evident the batteries were bad when the compartment was opened. I put on a dust mask, pulled out the old corroded batteries with needle-nose pliers and carefully vacuumed up the remains. Then the clothes, torso and head parts were removed systematically.

I snipped the power chord near the battery compartment and connected it to 3 volts supplied from my variable voltage ac to dc transformer. Before turning the power on I set the video recorder on a tripod. I wasn’t expecting much to happen, but to my surprise the robot bartender came to life!

Everything worked as it should! Without his jacket, however, there was nothing restricting the motion of his drink shaking arm. When he the shaking action initiated the arm would flip completely backwards, my fingers are preventing the flip in the video. Excited and inspired I loosely wrapped a wire tie around his arm to restrict the motion. Doing this was a mistake, however I’m not sure why. The bartenders sequence of actions became sporadic and stuck.

john chismar bartender tin toyCuriosity got the best of me and I disassembled the gearbox beyond repair. I come across these bartenders at flea markets and estate sales every once in a while. I never knew how delighted I’d be watching the display in person. I regret busting this one and when I find another for under ten bucks I’ll try again.

2016 begins with Many Beautiful Things

jchismar.com many beautiful things

2016 is off to a fantastic start! Amy and I celebrated New Years Eve with good friends, great food and awesome intoxicating concoctions at the Orange Squirrel. New Years Day provided an opportunity to rest and work on a few home improvement odds and ends. Also, we had the privilege of sharing brunch with superstar woodworker Jeffry Lohr and his wife Linda at their home studio. Brunch was especially cool because we shared the occasion sitting around Jeff’s gigantic live edge Frontier table. It was pleasurable to have the chance to converse, play with Jeff’s handmade yip sticks and watch our pets aggravate each other.

Amy and I wrapped up the awesome holiday weekend by attending the U.S. premier of the documentary Many Beautiful Things at Fitzgerald’s 1928. The documentary is about actor Vincent Schiavelli and the years lived in Sicily before his death.  Chef Francesco Palmieri prepared a delicious meal inspired by Schiavelli’s recipe books. Plenty of wine and specialty drinks rounded out the experience nicely. When the documentary concluded I had the opportunity to speak with director Aurelio Gambadoro, visiting from Sicily, and shake his hand.

And last but not least I decided to kick of 2016 by combining jchismar.com with my blog brownpaperbaglunchbox.blogspot.com into one seamless experience. Please be patient with me as I tweak setting and continue to migrate all the pieces together. Hopefully in a few weeks everything will meet my satisfaction. My sights are aimed high for 2016 for family, friends and fun.

Bathroom Towel Caddy and Scale Garage

Now that our bathroom renovation is nearly complete we are settling in and hashing out the small details. Spare towels and washcloths were stored in a large wicker basket on the floor in the previous iteration of the bathroom. The basket has taken a beating over time and it doesn’t necessarily match the new décor therefore Amy requested a new towel caddy.

Towel Caddy Scale Garage

Several designs were drafted by Amy before she submitted the final plans for the “towel caddy / scale garage”. Amy indicated in the verbal brief included with the delivery of the design the final project will be painted white. For this reason the variety of wood is unimportant. Initially I was going to use MDF but changed my mind because I don’t believe it will tolerate the periods of high humidity in the bathroom.

In the end I used half inch thick cabinet grade plywood and capped the exposed ends with solid pine. I was going to use oak because it’s durable, but the wood grain of oak reveals through paint. Biscuit joints were utilized to reinforce areas potentially weakened by overstuffing towels into a small space. I added holes for handles to the design to make the caddy easier to move around. The build is complete and is waiting for a few coats of paint.

Family Christmas Craft 2015 – Giving My Father’s Puffin Whirligigs Wings

wooden alaska puffin bird wind instructions

A few years ago the Chismar family decided to stop purchasing Christmas gifts for one another. Instead, our family began to create unique crafts to exchange as gifts. The crafts include baked treats, wall clocks, rosaries, placemats and many other imaginative items. The craft exchange is always a hit with much excitement surrounding the reveal of each invention.

A few years ago my father decided to make everyone a puffin bird whirligig, replicating a whirligig he purchased on vacation in Alaska several years prior. The bodies of the puffins were carefully cut out and painted by my father’s hand. The wooden dowel used as the axle for the propeller wings were also cut, painted and inserted into the body. Unfortunately the propeller wings could not be completed in time for the holiday, so the project was packed up and stored in the garage.

About a year ago the box of puffin bodies was passed on to me, where it was stored in my workshop. This year I decided to add wings to my father’s puffin whirligigs. The original wings were plastic and attached to a dowel hub. Preferring wooden parts over plastic parts I created mini hubs and propellers from poplar scraps around the workshop. I spray painted the propeller assembly black and attached each to the axle dowel with a brass screw. It is my hope that we will enjoy our puffins for years to come.

The Little Match Girl – 2015 Woodblock Print Christmas Card

Hans Christian Andersen short story

Nothing says Christmas more than a tale about a little girl surrendering to hypothermia, alone on the street, afraid her father will beat her if she returned home. The Little Match Girl is a holiday tale penned by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is about a young girl forced out to the cold winter streets by her abusive father to sell matches to pedestrians about town.

Unsuccessful at her task and frightened to return home she huddles near a niche for warmth. To pass time and keep warm she begins striking matches. With each match strike the girl experiences wonderful holiday visions of food, fun and family. A shooting star reminds the girl of her grandmother explaining a shooting star is a soul entering heaven. The happy ending? The little match girl dies and joins her grandmother in eternal paradise.

Remembering the story I decided to make The Little Match Girl my Christmas card theme. The design process proved trickier than I originally anticipated. My first designs were of a shooting star, a flying grandma, the face of a little girl illuminated by a match, soaring Christmas trees and floating food. In short, the designs were too busy or gloomy. In the end I decided to join elements of grandma with shooting star and match strike sparks. It’s best to allow the imagination of the viewer to complete the scene.

Yard School of Art Acrylic Painting Class – Montclair New Jersey

introduction to painting anthony cuneo

For the past ten weeks Amy and I attended an introductory art painting class at the Yard School of Art in Montclair (NJ) Art Museum. Students were given the choice to paint with oil or acrylic paints. Both Amy and I decided to work with acrylic paints mostly due to the easy clean up in comparison to painting with oil. Being a newbie to the official process of painting was challenging and fun.

My prior color mixing experience is in the RGB realm of digital art; mixing paint colors is a very abrupt step into a new realm of creating colors. At first I approached mixing color in a very scientific and astute manner. Surprising to me, this proved more frustrating than helpful. Focusing on light / dark value while maintaining a relaxed attitude on hue yielded a more successful result.

The first class painting was a still life of various white boxes placed on a table. Building on the rudimentary skills learned in the first painting we painted an autumn still life of an arrangement of gourds. The third, and most challenging painting for me, was a rocking horse. Most students completed their rocking horse painting in three classes while I required four classes to wrap it up. The fourth and final painting was a landscape painting picked by each student.

We look forward to attending more classes at the Yard School in the future.

Wooden Holder for Bar of Shower Soap

wooden bar soap holder

The main bathroom in our home was recently remodeled. In the end the project turned out nice; not without a good deal of aggravation stemming from our contractor. A few odds and ends remain to be straightened out then we can finally, after more than four months, put the process behind us.

We’re slowly acclimating to the new decor and layout as we begin to use the space on a regular basis. The first few days I was placing my bar of soap directly on the tile ledge of the shower niche. My mind began browsing the inventory of our home for something that could be used to hold the soap. Then it dawned on me, I can make something.

As usual, the original plan was something ambitious and complicated. I took some time, gave it some thought and simmered the project down to something simple. I grabbed some poplar bits out from the scrap pile and piece of red oak dowel. After a little sawing, drilling, sanding and gluing I had myself a soap tray for the shower. It’s doing its job nicely and the more I look at it the more I like it.

Black Walnut Hardwood Amethyst Mineral Display Peg Stand / Holder

black walnut hardwood amethyst mineral display peg stand holder

My wife received an amethyst stone as a gift from friends who purchased the stone in Sedona, AZ while vacationing. She asked me to make a rectangular display stand for the cherished gift. A few specific design features were included in the initial request which included pegs for the stone to rest on and a slot in the bottom to store the information card.

My first attempt was  piece of live edge cedar that I had laying around the basement. I knew it wasn’t a rectangular base – and it was a little larger than the volume her hands originally implied. Yeah, she didn’t go for it. A day or two later I saw a schematic drawing, including measurements subtly placed on the coffee table.

I went to work on attempt number two. I grabbed a piece of black walnut, it seems each time I’m making something fancy I grab black walnut, and went to work. Once I figured out how to make the thin slot for the card the rest came together easily. After sanding I added linseed oil to make the grain pop. It’s pretty much what Amy wanted – she’s looking forward to showcasing her amethyst gift.

Halloween Wood Carving Edgar Allen Poe Black Cat Sculpture

halloween wood carving edgar allen poe black cat sculpture

A couple years ago I started a small woodcarving based on the Black Cat story by Edgar Allen Poe. My intention was to gift the piece to someone on a certain, special occasion. Circumstances beyond my control prevented the timely completion of the piece and it sat in my workshop unfinished. This weekend I decided to dig in and get it done..

It feels great to have another forgotten project off the dusty workshop shelf and now presented on a non-dusty living room shelf. I have a “Santa” patiently waiting in the workshop for his turn on the carving vice. Inspired by completing the Black Cat, I hope to keep the momentum and have Mr Claus in the living room by Christmas.

On a side note, Amy and I participated in the first annual Watsessing Park Fall Clean Up on Sunday November 1st 2015. We had a fun time exploring the park and scavenging around for bits of trash to pick up. Everyone was there, Bloomfield High School sports teams and cheerleaders and even the Bloomfield Fire Department was there to lend a hand. We look forward to volunteering next year.

North Jersey Woodcarvers’ 31st Annual Wood Carving & Art Show & Sale 2015

north jersey woodcarvers' 31st annual wood carving & art show & sale 2015

This past weekend I presented a table at the North Jersey Woodcarvers’ 31st Annual Wood Carving and Art Show and Sale. As usual there are many things made by talented craftspeople to spark imagination and inspire.

My carvings were on display through the NJ Woodcarvers in previous years, but this is the first year with my own table. My time-lapse carving videos displayed on a monitor including some never before seen projects. Also, a selection of my carvings and woodworking were on display and whirligig parts were available for sale.

It was fun sharing a weekend with old friends as well as making new friends. I purchased art from artist Anthony Santella  who also gifted a few old clockworks (I’ll do something with these someday). I carved a bunch of stars as well as practicing carving wooden pliers. One of my pliers attempts concluded abruptly with a nice cut on my thumb. Luckily Amy reminded me to pack Band-aids.