Little projects

Wisconsin State Farmer

By Susan Manzke

            As I wrote in my last column, my husband is always looking for projects to do in the winter. This year we aren’t tearing out walls, even though there’s an old plaster ceiling that needs demolishing. Mostly we seem to be biding our time until spring arrives.
            Besides me finding little things for Bob to do, our daughter Rebecca has brought out a few projects for him over the years. Once, Rebecca had him make a giant homemade game for the people to play at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Kimberly where she works.
            “Dad, do you have any chicken wire you’re not using?” was how she broached the subject—she knows we have all kinds of odds and ends (otherwise known as junk).  
            Rebecca told him her idea of turning the wire into a tube so she could use dowels and colored balls to make a giant Ker-Plunk game.
            Bob didn’t have chicken wire, but he did have another kind that was suitable for this project. The game worked great, even when a player was in a wheelchair. The only problem with it was that staff has to scurry around the room, rounding up the balls after they are set free.
            Anyway, Rebecca came to her father the other day with a new project. She had ten clear plastic peanut butter jars. It was her idea to cut holes in the colored lids. The end project would have clients sorting nuts and bolts into different holes in the jars. Rebecca would make this into a game and no one would realize they were working on their fine motor skills. They would just be having fun.
            Bob examined the jar lids. He didn’t like the look of the plastic. It seemed brittle.
            First thing he tried was a drill. It went through the plastic easily, but when he tried a larger tool, it just whipped the lid around and split the plastic.
            We searched the house for other such lids so we could experiment without wrecking the ones from Rebecca.
            A grinder didn’t do the job either. The grinders here are made for big, farm projects, not something delicate like this plastic.
            Bob wasn’t deterred. He tried a chisel. Complete failure with this tool. The plastic just shattered. Good thing it was a spare lid I had found.
            He was getting discouraged. Nothing was working, even his foe-Dremel didn’t put a dent in the top, but of course he didn’t have a good grinding attachment.
            When he walked away, Bob left the last of the lids on the table. That’s when I went rummaging in my craft paraphernalia. I had one more idea to try. All I had to do was find a tool I hadn’t used in years.
            The last time I had seen my electric wood burner it was in the dark recesses of a drawer. I wasn’t very hopeful it was still there. I could have thrown it out or given it away. To my surprise I found it.
            This wood burner is so old it has no temperature controls. Just plug it in and it heats up.
            I took the tops and the wood burner onto the back porch. If my idea worked, smoke was bound to come from the plastic—I wasn’t ready to set off any smoke alarms in the kitchen.
            When the burner was hot, I touched it to the plastic. A tendril of smoke wafted up as the hot point went into and through the lid.
            Success! I widened the opening into a round hole, well almost round.
            Bob was proud of me. After I made circular and rectangular holes in different lids, Bob used a rasp to file the edges.
            It was only a little project but when our daughter arrived for a visit we were happy to be able to send her away with containers that would be useful for her clients.
            No one knows what or when our next project will appear, but we’re ready. It’s good to feel useful.
            Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com

Working on a new project.