My Solution to the Debt Problem

First, I want to say that I don’t participate much in political discussions, nor do I generally think very deeply about politics in general. I tend to avoid these things because I’d rather be thinking about making something, be it games, guitars, or whatever I’m doing at the moment.

However, the “mortgage crisis” and the “solutions” proposed by various politicians, really bother me, especially when none of them seem to address the real problem, and only seem to be bandaids.

The REAL problem, as I see it, is that lenders are allowed to advertise using direct marketing methods, including both paper and electronic mediums. Since we bought our house, we’ve been deluged with refinance offers from a large number of companies, all wanting to help us take the equity out of our house or save money on payments with a lower rate. People on the border of not having enough cash to cover their bills are, I suspect, very vulnerable to those types of offers.

What’s really unsettling is that, even in the midst of this crisis, despite being on of the companies in deep trouble because of their past lending practices, I’m still getting emails from Countrywide (who is the current holder of our loan) promoting a poor financial choice in the current housing market.

“Mark, your estimated home equity may be as much as $xxxxx. You may be able to refinance, possibly lock in a lower interest rate, and receive up to $xxxxx cash from your home’s estimated available equity!”

They say it like it would be a good thing to remove any cushion I have with regard to being able to sell my house if I wanted to. I also can’t see how this is good for them in the long run, as I bet many of the people that take them up on these refi offers (especially right now) will end up upside down on their loan.

For other types of debt products, the worst offender in my book are the credit card companies. They send you pre-approved application after pre-approved application until they find the combination of numbers that gets you excited about going and buying whatever it is you want. They send them to college students who HAVE NO INCOME! These behaviors are predatory, as far as I’m concerned, and should be illegal. Why is our economy teetering on the edge of a knife? We’ve tapped out our credit. Financial institutions won’t even lend each other money anymore because they’re afraid they won’t get it back. The people in this country can’t afford to pay their debts, plain and simple.

Imagine a world where lenders couldn’t advertise debt “products” (calling a credit card a product makes me ill) directly to the consumer. No more pre-approved accounts in the mail. No more loans that come disguised as checks (this one really makes me want to scream). No more refinance “opportunities” in your email.

I think our economy would be sitting on a much more solid foundation than it is today. The sub-prime mortgage crisis may still have happened. Go figure – sub-prime seems to me to indicate something along the lines of “risky fucking borrower”. But I suspect that it wouldn’t be near the crisis that it is, as people might only be in debt up to their waste, instead of up to their eyeballs.

Band Saw!

I picked up the band saw on Friday, but all I managed to do was get it out of the van (with Wendy’s help) and separate the parts. Here is the box, saw still inside.

Saturday, Erik had T-Ball practice and a birthday party to go to, but I managed to get a mobile frame and the base of the saw together during the day. In the evening, Wendy helped me lift the saw onto the base. It’s definitely NOT a one person task. We then figured out that the instructions are really pretty awful, and that we were supposed to put some bolts into the base before we lifted the saw onto it.

There was a little knob that fell out of the packaging, along with a washer, and it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the instructions – no pictures of it or anything. Turns out I stumbled across what it was when I tried lowering the blade guides. It seems there is a cover for it, and this knob holds it shut. Apparently, in a previous version of the saw, this was actually a bolt that was turned with an allen wrench, as this is what the instructions described it as.

Anyway, here’s the band saw, all put together, and I can’t wait to actually try it out. The electrical work should be done sometime this week.

And here is the last remaining bolt that I can’t figure out where it goes. Like I said, the instructions are awful.

UPDATE: I figured out where it goes. It attaches to the back of the table to allow the fence to rest on it when not in use, it seems.

Electrician for real!

Days, even weeks without progress, and then, well, progress.

So, 7:30am, the electrician came buy to scope out the work required. He’s going to replace the panel because, unfortunately, the builders of this late 20th century house put in the smallest panel they could get away with. The wiring will all be in conduit, to avoid having to rip out the drywall, and there will be separate circuits for the dust collector, the air compressor, the lights, the refrigerator, and the two sides of the work area. Also, there will be two 230v circuits, one on each side, in case I need to upgrade some tools at a later date.

Then, later in the day, just before noon, I got a call from Woodcraft. My band saw is in! Time to go get it, put it together, and not turn it on because I don’t have a circuit yet that can handle 20 amps. Aargh! Just like the dust collector – sitting in the shop – collecting dust without even being on!

Anyway, I think the electrical work is going to get done sometime next week which will make me really happy. Then I can get started setting everything up and maybe get to work on the templates for the first guitar. Sure, I could do ’em with a jigsaw and a lot of sandpaper, but I’d like the practice on the band saw before I work on the real guitar.

Electrician, perhaps?

I got word that the electrician might be out this week, which could mean I could have the wiring done before the tools show up. What that really means, though, is another spending spree.

I will need accessories for some of the tools, maintenance tools for the tools, additional tools that I’ve been putting off until this stuff gets wired, lumber for jigs and a workbench or two (to replace the makeshift bench I have now), lighting, and who knows what else.

I had thought that audio recording was an expensive hobby, and it certainly can be. Getting set up to do woodworking seems like a never ending money pit.

Building Electric Guitars

So I got a new book on building guitars called “Building Electric Guitars”, believe it or not. The book, by Martin Koch, is self published, just like another book I have on the subject by Melvyn Hiscock – “Make Your Own Electric Guitar”. It’s interesting, really, that two of the three books I have on the subject are both self published. I wonder, and suspect, that it’s an indicator of the size of the market, especially considering that the book by Hiscock is the one I see recommended most on forums.

I’m not even half way through yet, so I can’t give a thorough review, but I can make a few comments. First, and I suspect this is more due to the self published nature of the book and an effort to save on cost, the pictures and diagrams are tiny and not very detailed. Second, it’s translated from the original German, and it doesn’t seem to be a terribly poor job, but there are some places that seem a little off, making me wonder if the translator knows the subject or not. The book could also have used a better copy editor – but hey – it’s self published, and it’s really hard to get all that work done yourself, especially if it’s translated. No idea if the author knows enough english to be able to verify the translation or not.

Beyond the technical quibbling, the book seems to be pretty well done, and it certainly covers ground that the other two books I have gloss over. None of the three books are what I would call comprehensive, but this one spends a large portion of the book on available hardware, seven pages on how to build your own pickups, ten pages on tools, and doesn’t get to actually building the guitar until page 105.

And when you get there, it’s pretty complete, it seems, at least in comparison with the other books I have. There’s still no substitute for getting in and working on your own guitar, but he’s got lots of tips and tricks for doing the various tasks, including things like how to clamp up an angled headstock, how to make the transition on a single piece neck from neck to headstock, and others.

Which is where I’m at right now. I’ll update this as I work through the rest of the book. So far, I think it was worth the money, if just as a secondary resource. With the few books available on the subject, there’s no reason you shouldn’t own most or all of them, really, unless the book is a complete mess, which this one doesn’t seem to be.