Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Not Get Killed: A Sea Story

How can you tell when an old sailor is lying?

his lips are moving.

Sometimes that's true but here's a tale from the high-seas that happened to me when I was a young sailor-boy on the USS Dehaven back in 1972.

Here I am on the good old Dehaven (DD-727) a Sumner class destroyer from World War Two.  It was a fine old ship with quite a  remarkable combat record.

Be patient, this will get more interesting as you go along.

The Dehaven

What a beautiful ship.  Note the gun-mounts forward (toward the pointy part)  each contains two five-inch guns.  They can hurl a 55-lb projectile up to ten miles or so with great accuracy. You can imagine that to achieve such a feat the gun must be complicated, well-engineered, and HEAVY

Here, Charlie Boothroyd stands at the rear of one of the guns, the sliding breach-block.  It weighs a couple of tons, and when the breech "clicks" shut the gun fires and the  block instantly (instantly) recoils about three feet rearward as the empty shell casing is ejected.  So you certainly would not want to be standing behind it when it fires, right?

Although I was a Radioman on the Dehaven, I found myself working in the forward five inch gun mount for a couple of weeks.  It was normally the battle station of the lowest ranking radioman on the ship.  Unfortunately he, and the next lowest guy were both on leave, so I was called down to fill in.  

At first I was down in the handling room sending projectiles and powder casings up into the mount.  The handling room is a small piece of hell on earth, where you try  to keep your balance on a greasy, moving deck, trying to not get your fingers crushed as you manhandle heavy projectiles from the magazine elevator into the ready racks and chain hoists which run them to the gun above. 
Sounds like fun, right?  Right.

As we were firing, from the small hatch above, appeared the grimy face of one of the gunner's mates up in the mount. While he was shouting the type of ammo to send up he spotted me, or actually, the petty officer insignia on my sleeve (the "crow") and inquired

"Hey a**hole, what the f@#k are you doing down there!?  You're a godd%##ed petty officer, get up here with us."

Seeing this as a welcome reprieve I  gratefully scrambled up the narrow ladder through the scuttle above and  emerged into the ear-splitting, bone shuddering, deafening, reeling and jolting world of the gun house.
My gunner's mate deliverer, realizing I'd never been in a mount before, gave me the simplest possible job - that of the "hot shell man".  Handing me one asbestos glove (instead of the required two) a glove, may I add, that had a large hole burned through the palm, and instructed me on my new job.

As the hot empty shell casings were ejected from the breach I was to grab them and toss them out a little scuttle that got them outside, out our way and out from underfoot.

They would pile up on the deck outside the gun mount.  Sometimes, after a sustained period of firing,  there would be hundreds of them out there, rolling back and forth with the motion of the ship

About ten guys worked the mount.  It was so noisy that the only communication was done with hand signals;  hand signals like the one I gave to the guy indicating that a casing had been lodged below the mount, impeding the elevation.  I gave him the "finger across the throat" signal and indicated the jammed casing.  He grinned, nodded, and gave me the "thumbs-up".  The fact that he'd been toking reefer all morning had some bearing on what happened next.

As I bent down, head behind the giant breech block, remember? the breech block that instantly hurtles rearward the moment the breach "clicks" shut and the gun automatically fires?  Yeah, that breech block.

Despite the smoky assurance of my shipmate of the "thumbs-up" signal, I heard that most frightening sound:

You know what happens at the click.

Instantly I felt myself flying backward; two huge, powerful, hands at my belt providing a jarring jerk clear of the breech block.

It all happened in the blink of an eye. I watched as the breech block rocketed before my eyes, filling the space where my head had been an instant before.
The guy who insured my continued future was a gunner's mate who I only ever knew as "Cracker".  A greasy, portly, and altogether unkempt sailor who was, for me, the man of the moment.

As I thanked him profusely, he shrugged it off with " Yer lucky that was the last shot or I'da been too busy to bother"

The guy with the bowl haircut: "Cracker"

And that's how I helped to defeat the commies.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wild Ride


Not quite three years ago, when I was feeling very low, some of the best friends a guy could have - John Laura, Holly, Maura, Chris, Susann, Christie and Rory took me out to the local carnival.

It was three hours of delightful diversion.

Now years, later (and happy as a clam, thank you) I edited together stills and footage that I shot on that evening and put together a very silly and, I think, fun, send-up of a suspense/horror movie trailer from the 1980's  Death Carnival of Fun Fun

You can enjoy it (or not)  here.

Art continues to imitate Life



Friday, October 21, 2011

A sad loss...

of a true heart.  Linda Sweigart.

Remember her here

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Other art

You may wish to go here to see some other stuff that I do.


Making a connection

From the house...

to the studio...

with rocks, bricks, and pea gravel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

of valentines, tattoos, and furniture

No sooner had I finished my Burnside Bridge bookcase than my wife Susan asked me if I'd make her a small bookshelf, very small in fact, something for bedside use.  I was happy to comply.  I chose to make her a bookcase and a valentine all in one.  This was on Tuesday.

By Wednesday morning I had the carcass glued up.  Made in select pine with no blemishes, the cutting, and assembley went like a dream.  As usual the screws were hidden with pegs and a cherry stain was applied overall.

As with all of the smaller bookcases I'm making this one has ergonomic hand-holds cut into the sides for ease in moving it about.

To personalize it I designed an old-school Sailor Jerry-style tattoo on the top surface.

First, I inked it in with a Rapidiograph pen,

the ink flows nicely even on the stained surface.

Then I added color, as usual using Prismacolor pencils which are always a pleasure to use, the colow seems to flow on, is very controllable, it saturates and blends like a dream.

The results were very gratifying, this is the valentine part I was referring to.

As usual, the unit was glued, clamped and screwed with pegs flush-cut to cover the screws.

I cut the hand-holds in more of a novel shape this time.

                                      Three coats of Spar varnish and it was ready for delivery.

                                         Two and a half days from concept to finished product,
                                                        The customer was very pleased!

Staying handy,


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Arsenal of Democracy

Those who know me are never surprised to learn of my ordnance collection; my artillery shells.

I've been collecting projectiles and shell casings since 1972 when I acquired my first one, a brass shell casing for a Naval 3" gun. I got it while it, and I, were still in the U.S. Navy. It's one of those things that "came home with me".

Shell casings and inert projectiles just seemed to gravitate toward me over the years, though more casings than projectiles. A few years ago, upon learning to operate a woodlathe, I began making the projectiles to go along with the empty casings.

Of my collection of twelve modern artillery shells (WWI to present) all of them are inert painted to appear active, and five of them are entirely made of wood.

Recently friends gave me a second empty three-inch shell casing. Last night I glued up five 5x14x5/8 inch boards as turning stock, and this morning I turned my latest projectile.

Here's my glued-up stock this morning.  I've just taken a mallet and driven in the headstock of my lathe into the center of the piece.  You can see that its just a big sandwich of glued and clamped boards.


I powered up my lathe and got to work making the chips fly...

and fly...

and fly.

I was using a profile that I had taken from an actual photograph of a 3" armor-piercing shell.

This profile served as my template for all measurements.

With my parting tool I dug down to a true 3-inch thickness as measured by calipers. 

Working from left to right, I turned the driving bands and, here, I'm roughing out the windshield - the lightweight steel cone that covers the nose of the armor-piercing projectile within.

Finish sanding as I went along, the piece is nearing completion.

Here is the blank, this morning at 8:00 a.m.

Primed, at 10:00 a.m.

Painted at 5:30 p.m.

And with it's shipmates this evening.

Can you guess which ones are wood?

Staying busy,