Kitchen Kalamity | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Kalamity cuisine

The cherry salad tongs I had made were in need of repair. They were steam bent, so they “popped” when you squeezed them together. But the top where the two arms were attached was messed up. Cutting this section shortened the calipers considerably, so there isn’t much “spring” left. No problem; I could just re-vaporize the pieces to increase the curvature.

I had made the tongs after reading an article about using a microwave oven to steam wood to fold it. The wood was moistened, wrapped in damp paper towels and then heated in the microwave – the process worked great.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember how long to heat the wood. So, I tried 15 seconds, then 30 and then 60 seconds, nothing. After that, I tried 2 minutes. No soap. Irritated and fed up with the process, I set the timer for 10 minutes and went out to do a very quick chore – I sure wouldn’t be waiting there.

When I got back, about a minute before the microwave was set to finish, I heard the smoke detector screech. When I opened the door, smoke came out. I ran inside, opened a window and whipped a lasso-style rag to silence the smoke detector. Coughing from the acrid smoke, I opened the microwave to find a charred wad of old paper towels that contained a pair of charred salad tongs.

A year and a half later, using the microwave still makes the kitchen smell like smoked bacon. –Jayne Thorson

Sliding dovetails

While I was in college, I worked as a cabinetmaker to help defer expenses.

After installing a custom-made desk-briefcase-workstation for one of my professors, he called to tell me how much he liked it, except that the drawer fronts would come off in his hand if he pulled too fast. I was puzzled, because the dovetail joints of the drawers fit so perfectly that I hadn’t even bothered to glue them.

When I went to inspect my work, I found that I had orientated the dovetails incorrectly, so that instead of being locked to the sides, the drawer fronts would slide over them. Thinking quickly about redeeming myself, and hoping he didn’t know much about dovetails, I said to him, “I’m sorry, I forgot to glue the drawers.”

He was happy with my solution and I glued them right away, but I also promised to pay a little more attention when cutting the dovetails so as not to cut them backwards. I might as well have said, okay, no more dovetails at 2:00 in the morning! –Don Busch


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