A friend I never met

I’m not as active in the gun blogger world any more. My blog is a hobby and plenty of people were able to  turn theirs into careers, and from that, plenty of great gun-related websites sprung forth. There’s still a need for blogs, especially those of us who don’t run any ads, to provide information, but as I’ve moved forward in my career, the time necessary to write well informed pieces started becoming harder & harder to find.

So, when I found out this morning that Bob Owens of BearingArms.com took his own life, I was shaken.

Never met Bob IRL. Interacted with him plenty on his old blog and elsewhere. I didn’t always agree with him which is how life works, but I was glad he was a voice for our cause.

This really hits home for me because, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I battle with panic attacks.  I’m mildly bi-polar and never really had to fight heavy depression for too long (mostly the mania, which honestly is enjoyable), but the panic attacks that came with the whole affair are scary. Not soon after my youngest was born, I had a bad episode and remember holding her in my arms, not capable of feeling any emotion whatsoever. None. Not love, not anger, not fear. Nothing.

For me, I’m able to fight that. It’s not because I’m stronger than most people, it’s not because of my intelligence. It’s blind luck that I’ve been able to focus my mind away from the depression and lessen the effects of a panic attack as well as medication that helps keep the chemicals in my brain balanced. I live a very normal life. PAs are few & far between and I haven’t had to deal with crushing depression in over a decade. But I understand it and I know the hopelessness one feels when that happens.

I can’t agree with Bob’s assessment that he was a coward or wasn’t strong enough any more than I could agree with a diabetic whose blood sugar spikes even when they eat well. Depression is a health issue, where your mind doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. You might go to all the doctors and be on all the medications and nothing will help. Lord knows  it took several years before they were able to find the right medicine and the right dosage that worked for me. Again, I was lucky that I was able to battle through it all during that time, but I completely understand that feeling that nothing will ever be good again.

One of the best explanations of depression can be found here

And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something — it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

When you’ve hit the bottom & cannot even comprehend that there is a way out, it’s hard. And sometimes people cannot take the pain (or complete lack of emotion) any more. We’re emotional beings, and when the largest part of your mental self is not working, death can feel welcome and at that point, any feeling is one you latch on.

Of course, this has nothing to do with guns. Nobody sits there and thinks happy thoughts, sees a gun, and then decides that they want to kill themselves. The responses on Twitter from the gun banners is to be expected. They are the compassionate ones, unless it’s someone who they don’t approve of, then the knives come out. It’s disgusting, but expected. Their emotions aren’t stunted, but unfortunately they’re stuck on hatred rather than compassion.

I’m sorry to see Bob go, I feel bad that he suffered so especially since I can relate. His suffering, however, has now passed to his family so if you can help, please do.

If you’re depressed, find help. It can be defeated and there are many, many ways that don’t involve ending your life & leaving your family behind. You’re not a coward, you’re not weak, you’re sick and sickness can be fixed.

And if you ever need a random ear to listen to, hit that contact button up top. I’m here for you.

posted by Robb Allen @ 5/9/2017 11:21:43 AM | Feedback (1)
80% lower & CNC?

I wonder if it’s feasible? Never really bothered with 80% lowers, but it’d kind of be interesting to see if I could do it.

Anyone have any experience?

posted by Robb Allen @ 5/8/2017 9:18:15 PM | Feedback (6)
New home

If you’re reading this, then you’re seeing the blog on a new server. Hopefully this one won’t die every few hours like the dilapidated box it used to run on.

posted by Robb Allen @ 4/29/2017 2:35:47 PM | Feedback (3)
Padauk 1911 Grips for sale

As promised, here are my first for sale grips. Get in on a piece of history with Serial number 0000000000000000001 (I left enough 0’s just in case this takes off!).


Like usual, pictures can't really do them justice as the orange color is *deep*, something you really need 2 eyes to appreciate. They are for full sized 1911s and have a tough-as-nails gunstock finish on them that will endure for years to come.

Only $45 + shipping.

posted by Robb Allen @ 4/26/2017 8:17:33 AM | Feedback (1)
Snobbery exists everywhere.

I got a rather snotty comment today on a woodworker's forum regarding the pistol grips I was making.

"I love CNC's it helps people believe they are skilled woodworkers"

The condescension practically stained my monitor. My only reply was "Never made that claim" as the last thing I wanted to do was get in (yet another) pissing match with some keyboard jockey on the interweb tubes. However, it did rub me the wrong way as it's just another form of snobbery. It's like saying "I love compilers. It helps people believe the are skilled programmers" (quote stolen from a Twitter friend).

$5 says the guy who made this comment uses power tools rather than gnawing the wood down with his teeth and sanding it using nothing but the stubble from his 5 o’clock shadow like a true woodworker would!! It’s practically a sawdust covered version of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

I get it. The CNC automates tasks. There’s a difference between a painting and a mass produced print of the painting. The original tends to have more value, however I didn’t just download a file, turn on the CNC, hit ‘Print’ and walk away. No, I spent many hours and many failed chunks of wood trying to get the system set up correctly. I may not have made the original model out of wood, but I sure as heck put the same amount of effort “carving” the item digitally - a skill in and of itself. I had to track down specifications to turn this



into this



And eventually into this

18034034_10154558713416347_5157648969460965413_n 18058028_10154558713321347_9000349253825741181_n 18056980_10154558713326347_1655241753579870292_n 17991255_10154559387061347_2979087059101424881_n

Which ended up costing a lot more than I was hoping for as I ate through a lot of lacewood with screwing things up from time to time. But learning those kinds of things isn’t a “real” woodworker and doesn’t require skill I guess. Or maybe it is, and I just take a different approach.

Oh, those will be for sale too. And guess what? Because I can easily reproduce them, they’re not going to be $800 “bespoke, hand crafted 1911 grips from virgin mother-of-toilet-seat” grips. The lacewood will be $65. Walnut or maple would be probably $30. Might try some Wenge, and those would be $65 as well. Eventually, I should be able to do inlays which can be custom done for a little more. Once I learn how to get the checkering applied, that’d probably be a $5 upcharge. This is less than a fully handcrafted set of grips made by blind monks living in the backwaters of Jeffcooperstan.

I'm not making things on the CNC and calling them "hand made". In fact, I jokingly am calling it "hand-ish made". There is a level of art involved in fine detail work, and as someone who spent what some people pay for a used car on a custom guitar, I get that. But this is a hobby, one I enjoy thoroughly and if I can have fun making stuff that makes other people happy too, well that’s a bonus.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear the CNC calling me.

posted by Robb Allen @ 4/24/2017 7:48:02 PM | Feedback (21)
If you can dream it

You can build it!

This past weekend, I spent a few hours running a test to see if I could model something like this


Into this


And I did!

That’s a rough prototype. I only used a 1/16” flat down-cut bit which leaves a pretty rough surface. I had to hit it on the sander just to get rid of a lot of the wood shavings, but other than that this is what pops out of the machine in a single pass. Took about 40 minutes to rout, but the information gleaned was invaluable.

First thing I learned is how to navigate around Autodesk Fusion 360 (which is free for hobbyists!) and create the grip from specs. This is actually much easier in a 3D program like fusion 360 than anything I could do in Illustrator, not to mention that this is dimensional, not just a 2d outline. There’s also the fact that the program handles distances & whatnot for you much better (e.g. I need the center of this hole to be .36” from this edge. It will always be .36”, even if you move the edge). Much fun. Very cool.

Second, I can visualize how to make some really, really, really nice grips, even some with inlays. I have some highly figured walnut that I’m dying to turn into a set of grips with ebony & maple outlines and make a matching pen & pencil set out of. Part of the trick is learning how to swap out pieces without getting misaligned (the XCarve is a hobby machine, not a NASA engineered precision system, so things can get slightly off track if you’re not careful). Once I can successfully remove parts and / or change bits without losing precision, it will give me so many new options for cool things.

There’s also order of operations. For a scale, I need to drill very small holes for alignment on the top & bottom so I can flip them without them getting offset. The bottom holes have a slightly larger radius to allow for a flange and the tops have something similar for the screw head. Manually doing this with a drill is… let’s just say I’ve yet to have success with that. I can use my drill press now, but all three holes are not common sizes & require special bits. At least with the CNC, I can rout out those pockets with pretty good accuracy although holes tend to be a bit wonky (gotta figure out why).

Once I have the holes drilled, I can put it back on the jig and carve out the pockets for any inlays, carve out the inlays themselves, glue them together, then back on the jig for basic shaping. I need to add on about .01” to the overall thickness to allow for sanding and final whatnots.

Stay tuned! Exciting things are coming!

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/28/2017 8:39:29 AM | Feedback (23)
We are experiencing technical difficulties

And by that, I mean one of the hard drives in the server is really, really dying. This is an older copy of the website, hope I haven’t lost too many pieces of data, but bear with me as I slowly try to care enough to bring it back.

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/27/2017 9:23:25 PM | Feedback (2)
Remember I talked about getting a CNC or music gear for church?

I did both…

The deal was too good to pass up on the CNC router. The original owner was younger & simply couldn’t keep it running because the wiring never worked. I went to look at it and realized it simply needed the wiring redone and a few small, inexpensive parts. Still waiting on the parts, but all wiring is done.

I can’t wait to get started. I have SO many ideas, like this one.


As for the music equipment, the Mrs. agreed that it was for the church (I can’t use the stuff at home) so that we’d pay for it as a family. We moved money around a bit, realized we had it for both purchases, and went for it.

Stay tuned. I promise there will be some amazing stuff coming up soon! More than just awesome pens.

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/7/2017 10:05:26 PM | Feedback (9)
A dilemma of several currencies

As a Dave Ramsey acolyte, I have a rule – If I cannot pay cash for something, I do not buy it. Period.

Like all rules there are times when they have to get bent or broken and I’m not so hard core that I’d tell my daughter “Sorry, you can’t have a life saving operation because we don’t have the cash for it”, but I am pretty adamant that I will not go into debt for basic wants.

This system has actually increased my cash flow as my wife & I no longer impulse buy, thus we only buy things we absolutely want or need. I highly suggest checking out Financial Peace University . However that’s not the thrust of this post, merely a preface.

I love woodworking. I am having a blast making really nice pens for people and I’ve slacked at putting them up here. I also have requests to do other things like bandsaw boxes, a combination barstool / cajón, a challenge coin holder, etc.

The great thing is this actually makes money to cover the hobby. As long as I have cash in hand, I can buy stuff to do more woodworking.

Enter the CNC.

I can think of a billion things to do with a CNC and I’ve not even scratched the surface. From jigs to templates to extremely detailed cuts that there would be no way I could do with a coping saw and my giant, steam shovel sized hands, I could find enough to do with a CNC to let me learn how they work and then expand.

Between Shapeoko and X-Carve, the two major hobby-level CNCs, we’re talking about $1500 to get into it, fully loaded. For about a grand, I could get the entry-level system but would probably spend a lot more time trying to get them to work. Or, I could spend around $500, buy all the parts and build the rest. But that butts  up against the one currency I do not possess – Time.

I’m out of time. Completely and utterly. Both my girls have music lessons, Girl Scouts, youth group, friends’ parties, etc. etc. The house needs the gutters cleaned out, the fence needs pressure washing, how the hell are weeds growing out of the side of the house, yadda yadda yadda. The woodworking takes a lot of time, and it’s not something I can genearlly just walk out to the shop, spend 15 minutes, and come back later. Plus, in between all those times, I need to socialize with my kids & my wife.

The last thing I can do is spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to build a CNC machine. I prefer one that all the parts are basically ready to put together and viola! My time is spent learning how to use, not how to build.

Oh, also – I’m in the church praise band & play on Sunday. I have to practice for that, but I’m also trying to expand beyond just guitar. I want to be able to do some keyboard work as well as being able to provide backing tracks. We’re also moving into using in ear monitors vs. the stage monitors so we can control our sound better. We’re a really small church, so all those things are items we are buying ourselves.

Yesterday, I found someone on Craigslist selling a 1000mm x 10000mm X-Carve for about half price. Doesn’t have all the bells & whistles, but it would carve stuff for me, and bells & whistles can easily be added on as we go.

The problem is, he’s young, bought this not realizing how complex it is, then realized he didn’t really have the money for it (see first few paragraphs) and is wanting to offload it to cut his losses. It doesn’t work, per se, and needs a few repairs to get it running and my gut instinct is he didn’t connect Part A to Slot B correctly. If that’s the case, it’s a good deal. If not, and he shoehorned in Part C into Slot P using a Dremel, then getting it back into working order may be that same amount of effort that I literally cannot afford.

Financially, it would completely suck up every last cent of my funding (in fact, I’d have to borrow against some other funds I’ve got set aside). And that means the audio equipment I need for church wouldn’t get purchased for a few months. None of these funds are family-funds, I consider those untouchable for crap that only benefits me. I do have some orders that I need to finish up & the payments from those would help, but not completely cover. AND, I have materials I have to buy anyway which limit that pool even more.

Options - I can stretch my rules, risk buying something that might take more time than I have AND possibly require more $$$ to get completed, especially if it’s messed up vs. not put together correctly. The payoff though could be a CNC which could honestly free up a lot of time once I get it working PLUS open up a lot of opportunities for new products. That, and it’s computers AND woodworking, which combines my hobby with my profession. Cons – No gear for church for several months.

Or, buy the gear I need for Church.  There’s no deadline, it’s not like I have to do it to continue playing, it’s just that we’re trying to be better and that requires some equipment upgrades. Our lead guy just got his gear yesterday & we’ll be trying it out tomorrow after Ash Wednesday service. The drawback here is that by the time I recoup the funds, the 1/2 price unit may be gone and I’d need to save up a considerable amount more than I think I can within a year. Big drawback – this gear is only for church. I don’t need in-ear-monitors or DI boxes at home. I’m more than happy to buy it myself and there’s no complaint about it, but it’ll only be used at church. I might be able to budget for this using family funds because it isn’t a toy for me and it can just be part of our normal giving (in addition to, not replacing), but that’s a harder sell to the Mrs.

So I have a dilemma. Time, money, and responsibilities.


posted by Robb Allen @ 2/28/2017 12:00:22 PM | Feedback (11)