Saturday, March 31, 2007

PJ wash

I had another go at the cooking today to give the little un a rest from it, but she did the wash up in her jammies. It was another day of doo little, with the weather very springy and undecided general fetching and carrying for the most part. All sorts of flowers coming up and the prospect of toad breeding on the near horizon. I must make some time in the day to get this drawing a little higher up the evolutionary ladder.
Compressed charcoal on cartridge.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Back on paper with a little bit of a return of energy. It is easy with all this stuff to think that there has to be a point, but I am pretty sure it ain't necessarily so.
Lunch here with my one and only daughter while the dog focuses on the distant prospect of visitors in the form of a crew redoing any electric cables at under 4.8meters above the road due to a truck crashing into a wire a week or so back making the issue a sudden urgent one..They moved our TV cable, but the electric was safely above the limit.

We had curry, but the rice was a little hard, so I gave the miss a hint that she should make a particular point of moisture intake to offset the blockage factor from swelling rice. Fortunately she is not too rebellious and followed my advice closely. She still got a bit knocked out by it later in the afternoon, but thanks to constant intake she was ready for her supper in fine fettle and has just had a quick session of weight training to round off the day before bath time.

Compressed charcoal on cartridge

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Windy again

I still seem to be suffering from some kind of cold, but managed to get tidied up at the site and am now finished with that job. It was interesting to see the structure in some high winds today. It looked like it should be OK even in a typhoon, but we'll see. There is a little concrete structure next to it that is something of a mystery, anyway it was a good place to shelter from the wind. The guys who normally work in the yard had heard that I was finishing up today and they came down to check out their new shed. They seemed happy with it. The standard break time beverage is a little can of coffee so we all clutched those while trying to keep stuff out of our eyes and the drink and eventually we all ended up with polythene bags to mind as well, because we kept getting those poping in to visit us in the little den.

Artrage sketch

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Last job of the day, sleep.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


We got most of the iron on the roof today, but didn't quite get to the end of it as it was pulling into dusk. The dinosaur activity continued on apace behind us. It is strange how much more tiring it is to work when it is noisy and smelly. While the chipper hopper was full of wood it was fine, but today they were feeding stuff that was already semi digested by bacteria through the machine, so replicating certain dinosaur functions that one would not like to be too close to. There were also rather more midges around than yesterday. Apparently the big machine burns five hundred litres of gas a day as well, so not quite the "green recycle" that it has written on the side. One interesting thing was that one guy was operating the two huge machines. He had a remote control for the giant chipper in the cab of his grabber arm machine.
Artrage Sketch

Monday, March 26, 2007


I really must get off to bed, I have an early start tomorrow taking the misses down to the station. She is off on a little jaunt with friends.

Sammy and I were out on the scaffolding job again today. The chipper machine was working full throttle. It has a big hopper thing in the middle and a grabbing machine picks up loads of timber and drops them in. It is very noisy, throwing the lengths of wood around inside, but the nastiest part is when it runs out of food, then the blades at the bottom must be exposed and it throws out loads of bits and bobs like a baby in a tantrum. They got a lot of good wood turned in to mulch today. It is soul destroying, but I was working up on top today, so I had enough work on my plate to keep my mind off of the destruction. I hope it will be our last day on the job tomorrow, then I can get back to a more organised routine that includes drawing time again.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lily of the valley

Back to midnight sketching on the computer. I took a break from the computer work to replant some lily of the valley we had dug out to make way for earth works. There were also a few little wild strawberry plants. When it comes this time of year I usually feel about in the earth to find the little spikes of the flowers down under the ground. I hope they weren't too put out by being dug up and sent back to bed. I bought a little pot with three shoots some years ago and they are up to about twenty or thirty shoots now.

Artrage sketch

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tired out

Skiving off again today. I am feeling the effects of working out in the elements all day. The scaffolding work again, and then home to more translation related stuff, which I must get back to now. This window is one of the many things I shall be making over the next few months. The wood yard will be turned in to a chip yard from monday. We will still be working on the roof, but to the accompaniment of some fairly nice pieces of timber being turned into chips. I don't have the space to store anything more at the moment, but I feel very sad that there is no home for the stuff to go to. Not enough people making stuff with wood in this country, it is all being made in china.
Artrage window design sketch

Friday, March 23, 2007

Scaffolding rafters

Another day on the scaffolding. I got my final tooth patch done this morning and then went to pick up this mornings assistant. The 21 year old daughter of the house. She helped out till noon and then Sammy came along in the afternoon to help out up top putting in scaffolding pole rafters. Some of the pillars were a bit long, so I got a chance to use my rechargeable reciprosaw and chop them off. It is a mighty speedy tool and helps out in a lot of awkward spots.
I am back to drawing on Artrage for the day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


At the local primary school there were 13 kids graduating this year. Sammy's class had over thirty back when he graduated. Sotsugyo means something like reaching the end of a testing time, to graduate.
I attended the ceremony for these kids as one of the three kind of school governors. I didn't have to make a speech or anything, which was good. I did one back in the spring at the sports day, so it was another guy's turn today. They go big on singing at these doos and the faces of the graduates all lined up as they sang to the other kids gathered in front og them was quite striking.
I know this class quite well as we have done a few projects together. They are a very mixed bunch, but they are a good example of how groups can get organised to do things together with little teams forming to do separate tasks I will miss seeing them about in the school when I go there. The head teacher got pretty close to tears at one point, but managed to hold on to his hat. I hope the spirit of this class will not get diluted at their Junior high school, but change that place to become more like them and then that positive attitude will spread onward and outward.
Today is also my daughters 21st, spring is a good time of year.
Charcoal on cartridge

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scaff pic

No time even for a scrappy drawing. Home from work, to work, to eat, to work, to bed. The layout work yesterday gave us a good smooth start to the day and we have all our anchors in and a bunch of the poles set to horizontal and vertical. This was the scene just as we were packing up at 6.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Laser guide

I had another go on the table stem carving today and also went along to the site as evening was falling. I wanted to lay out where the pillars will come and I had borrowed a laser level from a friend. It was very hard to spot the lines, but we managed by shading out light and holding up a sheet of paper, as well as wearing the special violet glasses. It was good for making the corners and lining things up, but I will take a normal transit tomorrow. I have all but two of the points laid out now and they will be easy to find with a couple of measurements. It is a national holiday tomorrow, but apparently the rubbish sorting guys will all be along, so I hope to get a solid day in with sammy and get a long way with the scaffolding.
Scrappy charcoal etc, as promised.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Back on Piano

Back to Sammy on piano. I had my own go this evening, so already pressed for time. I had a fairly skippy day. At the job site first to see how it was shaping up. All trace of the big furnace gone and most of the metal carried off. I had ordered a few scaffolding parts on the web, but recieved a mail today saying some of them would have to wait a week. I rang up and cancelled on that and went back out to get those locally. Found the cheapest place I could even though it is not really my money I am spending. I bought all the corrugated iron I'll need on the way back from the trip to fix the door, so I am just about done with shopping. I am now waiting for a day that Sammy and I can spend solidly on the job to get things started. That looks like being wednesday as Sammy is putting in a few sessions of driving practice tomorrow.
Back to translation work.
Charcoal on cartridge 31x43cm

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Red door

Slightly scrappy images for a while I think. I have inserted another element into the daily do, using an excercise machine. It will take time for me to work that in and get enough time to spend on drawing. I managed to remember my appointment for work today, but got about ten foot down the road in the truck when I realized I had forgotten to put the thing I was going to fit into the truck, I went down and got that and set off. All went well with the work, the door had shrunk quite a bit in the winter dry weather and so there was enough of a gap to see the latch bolts clearly and to stop the thumb latch engaging properly. I adjusted the door to get the latch working and fitted the cover plate that will stop the latches being visible. The owners still seemed very happy with their door and they said that just that morning someone had stopped in their car to get out and have a better look at it, and that it quite often draws comment from passers by. The couple were on hand while I was working, holding the door steady and generally observing the procedure. I don't really mind that at all, I am always keen not to mess things up and I basically know what I am trying to achieve, so I have nothing to hide in the work, no carpets to hide dust under..
Charcoal and gouache on cartridge

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Twist table 2

I am in need of a vacation again. Here is the table stem this evening with the changes to it that occured in the week and fewer legs plugged in. Only a few hours put in with all the other things going on, but better something than nothing. If you compare this with the last photo there is more twist and the profile is cut deeper. I will hold the twist as it is now, but increase the profile cut in more to make a smoother swoop up from bottom to top. Off to the city again tomorrow to fit that lock guard on a door. I had arranged to go today, but when the time came around I was either still on my friday internal clock or had drifted into the idea that I was due to go on Sunday, anyway it was too late to get going as it is a couple of hours drive away. Just too many different things going on to keep track of everything. Hopefully all will go well with the fitting tomorrow morning and that will be one more thing out of the way.

Friday, March 16, 2007


It was the evening of the little celebration for winning the award for the report, so I am slightly the worse for wear. After returning home I sat on the sofa with the laptop for a while with sammy trying to explain some of the things I have learnt not to do on the stock market this week in terms of invisibility cloaks and other magical powers that can be acquired once one has the necessary funds. I have decided to follow his advice today and do nothing, I don't think alcohol intake is a good idea when placing orders. The event earlier in the evening went off jolly well, but I would rather there had been someone else in the hot seat than me.
Charcoal on cartridge 31x43cm

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I was working with the air chisel and small belt sander again today, so I had a quick go at dusting off patting down and blasting with the air gun and compressor before coming in to the house. The brick oven I made in the autumn is still there, but at the moment it is serving as a little cubby hole for the compressor while it is off duty. We are promised rain this evening, so it is in there now shivering after a good session of work this afternoon. The air chisels were a birthday present for myself last year and the compressor from the year before that. I think the year before was a welder. Anyway they are all paying their way.

Goache with charcoal on cartridge 33x41cm

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The google earth image above shows the recent job site before we ripped the roof off the little white square below the pin mark with kaitai (demolition) written either side. In typical job site efficiency, we turned up to take the scaffolding down and found there were a gang of guys working with a 25ton crane to lay a load of steel sheet for the 50 ton number to come in on friday.
They are going to pull out a very large furnace for burning rubbish, which has been made redundant due to the current rave reviews for the virtues of dioxins. We were told we had till the end of the week to do the demolition and apparently so were the furnace removers.
I have only ever worked with two people who impressed me as absolute jerks and the guys on the crane crew did nothing to dent this long held record. We quickly reached a cordial agreement which would allow our schedules to correlate. We got to work on taking out the front of the scaffolding and that allowed them to plan out their sheet arrangement and get on with laying up. I cannot emphasize enough the sense of satifaction in finding an unknown human with whom one can feel a sense of mutual respect. In the practical world of making stuff happen it is rare to find one who is not of this type.
I am sad to say that my trip the city yesterday to recieve an award for that report I wrote back in January was not quite so filled with mutual feeling. There were 34 entries and I was the bees knees in the opinion of the judges. Of course I owe me misses a big debt of gratitude for writing out my thoughts in a few late night sessions of intense discussion on what to chop out and she had proper credit for that on the cover. I still don't know what the prize is, but they have my bank details and I will be happy to look after any funds they choose to deposit. I am always impressed in a negative way by the cloud like nature of public officials. It seems that the first thing they learn is how to do absolutely nothing and make it sound like they have been working on the cure for cancer. They have an inate ability to swan. One chap actually did spend about ten minutes litterally twiddling his thumbs while seated on stage. One cannot help but fill in the hours while waiting for them to stop speaking by imagining what they must have been like as children. Especially as the gents in question were the chaps looking after education policy for the city we have recently become a part of. I think the lack of screaming in the audience of my fellow award winners showed the huge reserves of restraint that have been developed in the population, but there was a definite humming between the ears that threatened to force its way out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rice timer

We used to cook our rice with a pressure cooker, but we have switched to a clay pot these days. It tastes better, but it doesn't make a swishing noise to let us know it neads turning down. We use this little penguin shaped timer to click the ten minute mark. So this is a nine minute while u wait drawing of daughter bookworming. I am too tired after an encouter with the city to make recalled images filter through.

Charcoal on cartridge
recent smaller size paper

Monday, March 12, 2007

Up on a corrugated iron roof with Sammy today. We had to get all the iron off and the rafters as well as a load of sheats of 5mm plywood. It was seriously windy so it was more work than otherwise. We lost a few of the sheets of ply, but a couple of old car wheels helped us keep all the iron in a stack until we could tie it with bands and chuck it off in a lump. The roof is over a scaffolding structure at a local wood yard where they store all the driftwood that gets washed up at the dam.
The guys were there working today. they have an area with iron plates that they take huge scoops of the junk that has floated in and they sort through it all by hand to get out glass, plastic and metals. I think this is the side of green work that a few more politicians should be involved in on a regular basis. The blokes were having trouble keeping their fags lit at the break time, so they had the ends stuck in drink cans like they were supping the stuff up through the cigarettes.
I am absolutely exhausted, having been sand blasted in the sun all day, but realized it would be easier to do a real drawing than get to grips with Artrage later. If you suffer from back pain do a web search for Piriformis stretch and if the pictures look like leg crossing try it. Even one on each side is better than nothing. I feel a lot more human each time I do it and without that and the ham string stretch I feel like I am likely to have to claw my way back up my own legs after my top half falls on the floor having snapped off completely. After a few stretches I am back to normal.
Charcoal on Cartridge 38x53cm

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Last year I made a shallow pit at the corner of our field area about 90x200cm and 15cm deep where the spring water runs down to the river. Then I lined that with a bit of cheap vinyl sheet used for cloches. This year the frog population around our field has really increased. I guess it took a while for evolution to produce ears and a means of sound production, but it was certainly worth the effort with these little munsters coming in from all over to use the new facilities. By the time their tads are getting around without their training wheels the toads will come and lay. Then last of all the tree frogs will come down and lay their little froth ballons around the place. So I'll try and get them all in in due course.
These are pretty small frogs like a british common frog and they are certainly nervy, I really had to creap out on to the veranda to watch them at tea time earlier today. Their eyes have that sense of focusing on everything with the same intensity and when anything moves, so do they. Only four clumps of eggs so far, but maybe we'll get more. I have seen these quietly chirping while guarding eggs in holes left by stones fallen from walls next to the river with just a trickle of water seeping out into the running river where the tadpoles really need those trainers as soon as they hatch out, so they are having a much more resort style start to their existence here.

Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Mainly working on the computer today. With an early start on a wrecking job coming up on monday we have to clear the decks of written work over the weekend.
In a few brief breaks I went out to help sammy with a spot of restructuring. We moved some retaining loose stone walls a bit further away from the house to give me a bit more room outside the shop so that I can move materials out there temporarily while we dig out another bit of floor. I had put the walls in as two tires but we moved the top one out on to the bottom one and back filled with some earth from the field that was dug out the other week by Sammy. We managed to get most of the plants and bulbs that were any good replanted as well.

Charcoal on Cartridge 38x53cm

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tea rows

I found that my tea and tool steel mix had become somewhat depleted, so I was out between the rows of tea bushes next to the house picking some of the fallen green leaves first thing today. I have an old pot with springs, tool steel swarf and a few busted drill bits in. I just add the tea and water and boil for a while, the poorer the quality of the steel the browner the mixture. The first time I made it I needed some in a hurry, so I sharpened up a load of stuff on a bench grinder and collected dust in water with a magnet under the bowl to speed up the blackening process. I guess it would work OK with a wood rich in tanins as well, Oak or chestnut shavings should do it. The mix actually darkens wood as well, but I haven't tried it as a finish in that way.
It seems like the bushes are shedding quite a few leaves ready for some new growth in spring. This area is one of the dogs favourites, so I had to watch my step.

Charcoal on cartridge 33x41cm

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Ever since I first used a belt sander I have always liked them. This is the smallest of the three that I own. It is good for all kinds of odd jobs and today it helped in taking any sharp bits off of the edges of my bit of ironwork. I wanted to get that finished up today, but other work intervened. Tomorrow I will run the torch over it to get a nice layer of oxide, then brush on a mix of green tea and tool steel boiled together that turns the oxide black. Then reheat a little (fast heat cracks off the oxide) and rub on some wax with graphite powder mixed in. It makes a nice black finish for iron.
I started out drawing me on a chair, but I ended up kneeling on the floor, that happens a lot.
Charcoal on cartridge 33x41cm

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Welder Back

I got on to some welding yesterday and forgot to connect up the water to the water cooled TIG torch. So today I had to mend the little melted sausage. It had broken of its own accord a while ago with the hose at the torch end succumbing to age causing a rather alarming trickle of water to spring up while I was welding, and water is not something you want about you with the electrons in transit hither and thither. Anyway, that episode meant that I had a good idea of what I was up against. I managed to get both ends off and reconnected in a couple of hours before lunch and then get the water hooked up and start welding again in the afternoon.
When I mended it before, I was surprised to find the torch wire running through the hose that carries the water, so the whole length of wire and the torch are cooled by the water. The metal in the wire must be something pretty nifty. My welder isn't designed to take a water cooled torch, so it is a bit Heath Robinson, but it means I can weld a lot longer at one stretch without the torch getting too hot to hold.
The welder was a bargain from a company called DAYOK in Taiwan, it has TIG, stick and Plasma cutting facility. It had joggled one of its wire connectors loose when it arrived, which made me think I might have invested in a bit of a squib, but the company encouraged me to persevere and on unscrewing the cover I found I just had to plug the little sucker back in and it all worked fine.
Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Same job, different jobber. My daughter did the evening wash today. The dog has been getting on her nerves a bit, slightly over stressing the fan club allegiance. We have taught him quite a few things, like not being allowed in the bedroom, which serves as our TV viewing room too. But for some reason he has always assumed he is not allowed in the kitchen either. I guess it may be because you have to take a step down into the area, so there is a kind of natural border. He is not dumb, as I remarked the other week, checking for cars before crossing the street, so he is usually at the door watching if there is someone in the kitchen in case there are scraps on offer. Anyway, he dilligently followed her back to her room when she had finished, but now he has just gone back to his post on hearing the sounds of food preparation beginning.
Charcoal on certridge 38x53cm

Monday, March 05, 2007

Carrot top

Back on manual work for half the day today. Putting some work in on a few pieces of iron to be made up into a door fitting. It was fun to use the press again, but it is a little bit crowded with firewood at the moment. I had a quick go on the piano and then did the evening wash up. Whenever my daughter does the cooking and it involves carrots one of these little bonsai vegetables appears on the window sill. This one is from a few days ago and it is looking very verdant in its miniature fractal curvatures. We are having a bit of a spring spa day with our first rain for quite some time. I had to recut the old bath I collect our drinking water in to allow the meager flow to work through properly at a lower level. Anyway I spared a tiny drop for the carrot top as well to keep it sprightly for a while longer.
Charcoal and gouache on cartridge 38x53cm

Sunday, March 04, 2007


My workload has increased, so as it nears 1 am I must admit defeat as to drawing and get to beddy byes. One of the reasons for drawing my daughter yesterday was that it was the girl child festival day here in Japan. Over the festival period homes with girl children display these kind of dolls (Hina dolls) somewhere about the place. Ours are on the piano. When we first came here we were pretty strapped for cash and when grandma said she wanted us to buy some and gave us the money at a price of 400 quid or so I thought I would rather hold on to the money. I think it says a lot about the culture that there is such a day of thanks giving for boy and girl children as well as special celebrations when kids reach 3, 5 and 7 years of age (only 5 for boys). Now that the little uns are taller and smarter than me I am certainly thankful for having given thanks for them and I shall hope to continue to do so.
Nighty night

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Washed out

No such luck with the manual work, a day in front of the computer again writing out transcripts of video. I must say I can see why people have a ridiculous idea of Japanese culture. I recently made a typing error that went, "I live in the mountains outside of Japan". I left it that way because it seems to be true sometimes. Certainly well outside of the Japan that is portrayed in the video. I review the transcripts that my daughter does and here she looks how I feel, we both have square eyes from looking at the screen.
Lucky we can step out every now and then to get a bit of fresh air and a look at the crocuses.
Stove Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Friday, March 02, 2007

Day off 2

It is still early, but I need a day off from the drawing to catch up on other stuff. I have some designing work to do and the very rough sketch on the left is for a counter with small sink and set of cabinets and shelves for a little chinese type room. I will be working on refining this later. I will pop in a blurry photo of the table legs roughly up together on the bench as well, which might make sense of some of the recent drawings. The legs have been sitting in the shop on their own today, as I have been out and about in town, but I think I will be in there tomorrow either working on them or getting on with a little bit of iron work that needs doing.
Rough drawing on tablet PC with Artrage 2

Thursday, March 01, 2007


I got all the legs fitted and moved on to one of the more creative aspects of the table legs today roughing out the twisty shape for the center post. When you start acquiring tools or making them it is easy to think of them as new words in the language you are learning, but it is deaper than that. Each one adds a whole new letter to the fundamental alphabet you work with, so all the words you use from then on can come out differently. The pneumatic chisel I spoke about a couple of months ago is such a new letter for me that it took a while for me to piece it in to the current project. I knew I had a way of doing the carving that was easier but I only remembered the chisel today.
I put on the ear protectors shortly after this, as well as the obligatory gloves. The air coming out of the chisel is very cold on the left hand.
The first part of the shaping was done with an electric planer with a curved sole. Top left here.
Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm