The Traveling Snail Newsletter 1

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The first issue of a multi-topic, facts and opinion newsletter which at the time was written for my snailmail team on ETSY and my shop......

Submitted: May 15, 2017

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Submitted: May 15, 2017



The Traveling Snail


"Dedicated to the Dedicated, Informal Information and Ecclectic Articles"

By JA Sholar

For one of a kind handcrafted items visit


The Art of French Fries

Making Candles

Macaroni and Cheese Makery

A New Approach to "Blacksmithing"

Personal Insight?


Being a culinary school graduate I appreciate food can be fun, interesting and universal. It is also a field in which I am comfortable to use as a medium. Starting simply, a simple food we all love - French Fries. There are simple easy tricks which will elevate them from a side dish to an art form.

What's with the name?

No, they weren't invented in France. Fries showed up around the 1790's in Belguim very soon after the potato was common there. Now, think about it.....who does Belguim belong to? Shockingly, France! And, at the time, frying fries was done "in the French style" thus, French fries! So, ok great that is no longer an issue, let's move on.

Different potatoes have different uses. For these I use the standard brown Russet potato. Reason being it's durable and has a general uniformity of size. A frie press isn't expensive and exceedingly helpful, but if you want to hand cut them, you surely are free to do so. The shape and type of cut that makes the shape is called a "batonette" think of the word baton and it makes sense

A Cut Above

Ideally you should have them cut about a day ahead if you can. This is so because before they touch oil you may want to think soaking them over night in a brine solution (salt water). This will pull out some of the starch in them and also if done correctly eliminate the need to salt them when they are done. It is also somewhat important to blot them a little dryer with a paper towel just before you fry them (I am sure we have all experienced an huge oil splatter while frying something).

The trick to using the right oil, is that there is no trick. You have the right oil already, just regular vegetable oil, canola oil, really an oil with a high smoke point. Fancy oils like extra virgin olive oil while lovely, are a bad choice, they easily smoke and burn when subjected to high heat. And by high I mean 350 - 400 degrees.

A Special Trick

The oil is hot, in a generous size pot and your fries are in there frying. To spite your natural inclination do not fry them until golden brown, trust me, just don't. Pull them from the oil when they are just barley cooked though and you will want to dry and cool them. Not very good, are they? Because you aren't done yet.

Take your cool, cooked fries and fry them again. This time around you can pull them out when light to medium brown, they will carry over cook to a golden brown when out of the oil. The reason you did this is that now your fries will have a fantastic inpenetrable crisp.

There you go, try to follow this tutorial just once because you will want to do it every time. Now get and get the reputation for making the best fries around!!


Making Candles - Why not?

The first thing you need to know about making candles, is that it is bullet proof. Yes, there are ratios and formulas but you can always re-melt and start again, one pound of solid wax will yeild about 1 1/2 cups when melted. Even scrap wax has many uses. There are an infinate number of wax choices out there, but for the sake of not being tedious let us just talk about the best ones.

Bee's Wax - Color can be yellow or white but I always choose white so it doesn't mess with color. It is very popular used in cosmetics and candles alike. However, it should really only be used as a partial part of the waxes being used. It does not hold or throw scents particularly well but where it is useful is that it burns for a long time and very cleanly.

Soy Wax - This should be the basis of the candle waxes as it mixes well with the bee's wax is almost always all natural and can carry and throw a scent well.

Parrafin Wax - Wax like this is used to make wax figures primarily. You can add a tiny bit in for slightly altering the candle texture, but you don't really need to. I just mention it because you will come across it fairly often.

Fisher - Tropsch Wax: This wax is pretty terrific. It has many talents such as improving structure, prevents molting and gives a translucent glow throughout the wax.

Then there are the additives............

Vybar - Comes is two verzions depending on the melting point of your base wax.It improves hardness, elminates bubbles, allowing for more scent to be held.

Stearic Acid - A bit like vybar, used for it's excellent crystalline structure

Types of Wicks and their uses:

Flat Braid - Tapers and Pillars

Square Braid - Pillars, blocks, and novelty candles

Cored - Container candles

Wicks can also be soaked in essential oils to give off a scent when burned.

The easiest method to install your wick, is a method called tack pouring. In this method, you will pour a small amount of your candle wax into the desired container. Wait a few moments, and then insert the wick which will be held by the slightly tacky wax as it sets up at the bottom of your container. Then just pour the rest of your wax in to complete the candle.

I reccomend only oil based scents for candle infusing. Ideally nothing over 4% of the total amount of wax should be added for scent, more than that and you run the risk of a candle with the texture of shoe-polish. So that is a simple bare-bones explaination. Specific formulas you need to figure out for yourself for your candles to be truly yours.


Macaroni and Cheese : A secret Life


A comfortable classic, a childhood favorite for adults, a dish that can be super fancy with expensive ingredients or blissfully simple with merely a few yet, both options are equal in greatness. With endless variation it has the duality of being both a creative outlett and a process.

Macaroni and cheese is generally accepted as having French roots, however more suprising than this is how it got it's start in America. In the late 1700's an American diplomat returned from France with not only the recipie but also one of the first culinary devices that was used for only one thing - making elbow noodles. This same man has his image cast on Mount Rushmore, is a founding father and the writer of the Declaration of Independance....our nation's third president - Thomas Jefferson!!

However, at that time the only method of making it was the baked method. No stovetop version existed due to the fact that another thing that also didn't exist was the stovetop. So yes, it had eggs in it, I can't imagine what sort of crazy 1700's cheese but nonetheless mararoni and cheese now existed in America.

Now while I won't give a specific recipie or instructions since there are limitless options of what to use I don't want to limit your creative culinary choices with just one way or specific things to use. But I will say if you do the stovetop method you will need to learn to make a cheese sauce it's so easy you wouldn't believe how easy and the basic way to make it can be found by searching any search engine.

I Recomend:

25% of a cheese that melts well for excellent texture (Think of something like string cheese)

25% of a very agressive sharp cheese (It really boosts the flavor)

50% of an old stand-by (Such as Velveta)

The nice thing about these ratios are that they are for both baked and stove top versions. Once you have an excellent version you really enjoy don't be afraid to add in things like crumbled bacon, a topping, or just any addition you feel would make this glourious dish more glourious. Now go and innovate, go, go, go!!


I like to think that my style of "cheating" of metal work makes it easier and far more accessable for anyone who wants to do it. Natrually as with anything worth doing you do need to put some time and care into it. But it is super ultra practical and if you have the interest, it's worth a try.

One Two Three Forge!



What is it for?

What is the shape?

What is the size?

What is the main function?


What metal has the qualities that will be of best use for this item?


------ No fire, no heat, just you the metal, and your metal working tools. This process is about hitting, bending, folding, curving, or really anything you can use to take the metal you have and give it a very ROUGH shape as to what shape it will wind up being.If there is nothing you can do in cold shaping, just skip it and move on to the next step.


Using a two-wheel fine/rough rotarty grinding wheel, on the rough wheel, grind out the from the rough shape of your item, to a basic shape.

from a basic shape to a more definitive shape.


------ There are a few ways I have found to temper your metal working item. It all depends on the size of the project. For big projects you will need to find a suitable vessel or make one that can hold a forge fire that you will need to build. I am assuming anyone reading this has no projects that big, and usually I never do but I have done this a few times before.

I can't be too detailed here because there is no wrong way, but the way I was instructed to do it and have done it is this: Having the proper vessel to contain the fire, you will need a starter, prepared coals for seeding, wooden tinder, a lot of charcoal and a fair amount of wood, a small blower and probably an additional type of bellows.

Slowly you need to build up your fire with a constant supply of air also. you need layers on layers until you have layers of white hot coal. Then you need to rake and tend them even as you work.

For smaller projects personally I use heat proof gloves, a high powered blow torch and a deep container full of cold water. I put my shaped metal into a vice to hold it in place, put the torch directly on the metal until the metal is red or white hot, use a malette to hit it flat or thin it. Then I plunge the hot metal into the water to strengthen the metal. I repeat this process serveral times wiping down the metal each time.

6. IF blade, re-sharpen.


------ I use a mixture of brass, silver cleaner, and metal polish and shine applied with a sanding or SOS pad to clean and shine the item.


Did you ever notice no one noticed the conflicting things we tell eachother. For example the phrases "Heavens No!" and "Hell Yes!" and also "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" and then "It's the little things in life that make life worth living" Our philosophies cancel each other out. Really, what is the point to try to apply it to our lives. Enlightenment is totally impossible.

© Copyright 2018 JA Sholar. All rights reserved.

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