Monday, December 31, 2007

Obsession continues

I realised later on yesterday that the reason I had mentioned the PE teacher was that it kind of related to the drawing exercise. Although I don't manage it every day, the times when I really have to force myself to get started on it often turn out to be most rewarding, so in that area I am following the precept that exercising myself will be beneficial. I suppose the same is true of the efficacious shoulder exercise as well.
I got on with the last of that big log today taking it down to a nubbin after turning it over to tackle from the back. There was a bit of risk involved as I determined to saw through at as steep an angle as I could while still getting the widest plank to be the whole length of the log. Cutting at a steep angle gives that typical curved grain pattern, otherwise it would have been dull straight grain. I ended up with three planks which were the most usable of the lot. The last one is still tapered, but I will aim to cut out of it what I want in a more sculptural mode. I should have just cut a big flitch out of the center of the log in the first place and then done the same thing with those at right angles to get smaller grainy planks. Hey ho. The chainsaw, who is gradually earning himself more respect, worked fine for the job. I think I will look out for a bigger bar as it seams easily able to push the chain round the one on there. I have taken a couple of pictures of him out of harness, but with the bridle still on. I am always surprised how straight the planks turn out when it works OK. My first try was a bit of a disaster. I had the mount as shown, but without the two tabs marked. This saw has a system of rubber grommets to isolate the shaking motor from the handles, so I thought I would mount the thing solely via the handle parts to stop the engine shaking the carriage about. There were some empty holes in the plastic, but I knew that screws into them would soon strip themselves out a tunnel, so I made up a few weird little studs like the things on soccer boots. I welded some 6mm stainless nuts onto the heads of taping screws and then planted them in the holes. That meant I could bolt the carriage on using 6mm bolts and leave the studs on for the duration when the thing is just on firewood duty. It took me a few minutes in front of the rack of screws and whatnots at the hardware store to devise the cheapest most dooable solution.
Anyway, the rubber connection was a weak link and the saw sagged down on its mount making it cut way out of squiff, so I added the tabs to rest against some aluminium flat sections on the base of the engine. That held the saw's chin up on the subsequent cuts and it did fine. I am tempted to take it up the mountain and try it out on some of the felled and wasting cedar that is going begging. It was making fairly short work of Zelkova, so it should eat through cedar no trouble.
Appropriately, the saw is resting on an upside down sheet of calendar showing the year we are leaving. Somehow my mind doesn't really register these kind of events too much, but perhaps when I have had a glass of wine I shall feel a little nostalgia. We'll see.
A happy and healthy new year to all, with a side order of peace and prosperity.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Woops a daisy

Another on the pile, completely the other way round to my intentions at the start, this time you are up on the wood pile and Sammy has just chucked one a bit too hard and is doing a little shimmy to keep his balance. He has good coordination. I am not sure what I had at a similar age, I know I was not into sports. I remember one day presenting yet another note saying I was under the weather and the PE teacher telling me the whole idea of exercise was to make one healthy. He was right of course, but the whole sadomasochistic regime of British school life rather swamped out that simple truth for me.
Anyhow, I get my fair share of exercise now and I can still just about keep up with Sammy, even if I am not smiling quite so cheerfully at the end of the day.
The young fellow has now overcome the fever of yesterday and is out with friends for a bit of a get together at a local eatery. My kids don't get sick that often, so I always get worried when they do. It always gives me a sense of how much I love them and that perhaps I don't show that sufficiently. Fortunately they are now probably more able to fend off bacteria than me, so I don't really have any cause for major concern like when they were weenies. I can just about relax watching Sammy lark about with losing his balance on a pile of ankle snapping wood.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Marking time

Well, I think I was being optimistic. Skyping and general holiday malais have left me with not much oomph for scribbling. I don't feel like I am coming down with a cold like young Sammy, thank goodness, but nevertheless we all have those days where distractions mount higher than we are able to climb. I had a peculiar little boost to the spirits just now as I was paying my last momentary visit to the smallest room. I could hear a couple of frogs making tentative croaks out in the rain near the pond . They really are optimists, some time in January they will be laying eggs. I hope they make it, they had better keep their croaks to a whisper in the mean time as I am sure they would be high on the list of menu alternatives for the marten that is lurking around our house. I have seen his tail disappearing a few times in daylight, but the main evidence of the fury presence aside from more substantial nocturnal sightings up on the road is his own territorial toiletry at strategic points.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Zoom control

A little bit of a step backwards, zooming out just to show us on the wood mountain, the truck side and the distant woods and mountains. I am trying to formulate the thing into more of a picture and steping back has helped. I shall try again tomorrow with a more organized mind, I hope.
The picture below is the area of the yard in google earth. The square zigerat type things under the word "where" are last year's piles of driftwood. The people who do the job of lifting the wood out of the water and stacking it make it into regular piles so that they can measure the volume of stuff they have taken out of the water. I think the piles are about three meters high, ten feet or so. Between there and the dam in the bottom right corner the transformers for the electricity plant are laid out in a grid pattern. Just this side of the dam are the pens set up to protect the water intake for drinking water where they keep fish in nets to check whether anyone has poisoned the reservoir. Any floating fish and they stop the flow. Fun times we live in, but I am trying to stick with covering my silly little daily activities not world events.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wood pile

Another of those days where the drawing urge does not really grab, but having made some marks the shapes begin to appear. Sammy and I on the wood pile again today, the little truck with some big plywood panels to raise the sides helped us carry home the supplies. I do need a bit of a rest from different themes, so I shall flog this one to death in harness for a few days while the new year munching adds to my waistline. In other words I will continue to add to this and see how it develops. I keep forgetting to mention that the boxing speedball exercise has now almost completely cured my semi detached shoulder. And that after only a week of a few minutes pumelling each day.
We watched another movie last night, this time a newer one called Stranger Than Fiction, which was, as my son said, 'Interesting'. It made me particularly happy as it reminded me that there are a lot of people thinking about trying to make things better all over the world, the more the better.
We had company at the wood yard today as a couple were there filling their car with burnables. They had come to see our stove when they had been thinking about getting one, so it was good to see that they had taken the plunge. Their son is at the school where I do my councilor routine, but he wasn't with them today.
Bathtime is calling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scavenging and shopping

Reverting to one of the major themes, Sammy on the piano. A mixture of scrabbling about in a corner sketching while observing and then going away to scribble some more on the sofa.
We started the day with firewood gathering at the dam yard, reminding me of those scenes sometimes seen on the news of children picking over piles of trash for recyclables.
Then we went on a big shopping expedition in the afternoon. The pendant was well received by Mrs P and she wore it out to the shops along with the bracelet Sammy made. A lot of people out getting in supplies for the New Year. It is surprising how many folk will happily block the aisle with two carts side by side so that they can discuss some trivia holding up scores of us olympic entrants trying to get on to our next purchase. I was forced to embark on a small one man mission away from the family trolley to ensure that we got a bit of the bread we prefer before it ran out. No fights broke out, but one can imagine that if there were a shortage of stuff on the shelves it wouldn't take long before some serious bite wounds started to appear.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


This was my little go at present making with Sammy. Not silver or anything, just stainless steel square rod twisted and reduced on the ends, a slice off the end of a stainless pipe to make the egg shaped frame, some little scraps from another stainless water fitting as clips and a scrap of glass. Waiting on my daughters return from her shopping in town to thread the thing up on a bit of thong and turn it into a pendant instead of a mystic portal, then it will be ready to hand over.
Well, it is the thought that counts and I rarely make things without thinking at least a little bit.
Sammy made a bracelet in similar mode, but it is all wrapped up now.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Another in the random photo series. I have to get straight back to work that has to be sent in tomorrow. As you can tell, Christmas is a bit of a non event in Japan.
The soil in our field is not up to this kind of stuff, but there are kind people about that drop their own hard won produce off for us every now and then. The long fat chap is a Daikon and the little stubby fellows are Kabu. Brothers in the radish family. A nice bit of verdure in the home, like a winter harvest festival.
Not all suffering with work, I am only forced to do this late because I was skiving off watching a movie with the rest of the family. Very 80's love romance number and the closing musical lyrics had something about finding the new Jerusalem. How wonderful a thing that would be, not all laying claim to the same bit of privet.
Better yet, if we all had our own individual walled cities that nobody else could possibly lay claim to. Of course that is how we are born into the world and how we leave it, but in between there is a lot of nasty argy bargy for so many of us.
So, on this seventh Christmas eve in the new millennium and with a lovely moon shining in the sky I wish each and every one of us our own different Jerusalem to enjoy in peace.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Most of the day was spent on the computer, but Sammy and I spent a few hours down in the shop figuring out a couple of presents. I won't say what just in case, but Sammy was trying his hand at a tiny bit of blacksmithing for the first time. The bits of metal were pretty small, so I helped him out on some parts by holding the torch so that he could get to bending things while they were still properly hot. The cheapy chainsaw arrived and I tried it out after lunch. Not a complete dogs breakfast, it started up OK and cut fine. No oil or gas leaks, so I hope it will work for a bit. There is something about these cheaper items that shines out in every detail. Even the sockets in the allen bolts are slightly off center, but at least the bolts are there. I hope I will have time to weld up a new bracket for that little carriage tomorrow, but as there is still more translation work to do and I am behind on my little present having given Sammy that boost today I may have to wait until christmas. Right, it is time for me to take to the sheets.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


It was a good job that I went to get that fire wood yesterday as we now look set for rain over the next few days. Some kind of monkey weather sense guiding me.
I am awaiting delivery of a cheapy Chinese chainsaw that was too much of a bargain to resist. When that comes I will modify my little C girder carriage to accommodate it and cut my remaining planks. This is the carriage attached under the chainsaw in the drawing from December 10th. I had a little stick welder a hand drill and a jigsaw when I made the carriage originally. Slots made by drilling holes and cutting between them with the jig saw. Welds very much hit and miss. I am a lot better equipped now. The only point I was proud of with this quick and nasty solution to my urge to build a chainsaw guide to cut planks was remembering to cut the slots for the little roller wheels at an offset on the angle iron as the overlap would make them out of squiff otherwise.
I wasn't in the least sure that the thing would work, so I made only a small investment of time and even less in money. It was a surprise when even my first attempts at sawing gave fairly straight and true cuts even though the saw looked a bit rickety on the carriage. There seems to be a tendency for the saw to follow the path of least resistance and that is straight along the girder. I used C girder because I had a lot of 12' lengths of it at the time. I guess there are hundreds of other solutions.
All I can say is that they are all probably better than cutting by eye however skilled you are.
I was also thinking of making a guide rail that was curved to cut certain items like some kind of sweeping chaise long, but never tried that.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oranges and lemons

Sammy does a lot better than me at reading the paper. He got straight down to it as soon as he came home while gobbling an orange and a few biscuits in front of the stove. I popped along to collect a truck load of driftwood for the fire today as our store is getting a little low again. I have halted my chainsawing activity while waiting delivery of a Chinese import that may turn out to be a complete lemon, but was cheap enough to make it worth the risk and has a slightly longer bar than the ones that are currently letting me down. I managed to get one of mine working in the mean time by doctoring the end of the throttle cable that had snapped off. I tried a few methods, but in the end a trip to the shops showed me the way when I spotted some crimp on electrical pin terminals, one of which is now doing me a kind service after being bent into a kind of dog leg shape like the original link up. One day I think I will invest in a proper husqvarna chainsaw or something, but it always takes me time to justify these kind of major purchases.
My morning started off with a trip to the school for their end of term assembly, there are three of us councilors and I am always the last to "say a few words" at these things. It gives me a chance to hear what my fellow councilors are thinking about and come up with a couple of points of my own. It is nostalgic to be around kids sometimes, and we sit down the front right next to the first year students, who are tiny. They have one little part where one representative from each class stands up in front to say what they tried hardest at this term and what they aim to try for next time around. It was a little odd as the little un from the first years was probably the most well spoken of the lot and didn't need to read from a paper like some of the others. Isn't it odd how the classes for each year have a different character. There is only one class per year, so far there are no single figure classes, but some are very close to it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stan Meyer

One of those days again. Don't worry this is pretty much jibberish to me, I am only semi versant in circuitry.
I spent quite a bit of the morning sparking life into an old 2 stroke engine with the aim of using it for something. Also taking to bits a load of other junk engine related things to get rid of.
I think the signing of the energy bill got me looking at electric cars, then I surfed on to a gizmo called Water4gas that makes a small amount of gas to feed directly in to the air intake on a gasoline powered car and up the mileage. Then I spotted a link to "Water powered car inventor murdered". The said inventor was a chap called Stan Meyer. He claimed to have invented a device based on this demonstration circuit that would produce a large volume of oxygen and hydrogen from water with very little energy input. He also claimed to believe in the power of angels protecting him. The little google video I watched prompted me to search for more information and I found what claimed to be a replica of his demonstration circuit amd lots of photos in a pdf file as well as lots of other information that was too detailed to keep me fully engaged for long. I shall take another look after I have done a bit of water fracturing in the bathtub, hopefully without too much electricity present.
I wonder if it is all true, I hope so, except for the murder of course.
If you are in the mood for some conspiracy theory do a quick search for Stan Meyer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unfamiliar technology

I am still too distracted to settle in to drawing. I was asked last week to submit some kind of design for a competition related to possible uses for all that cedar wood standing on the mountains. In the end I only managed to send in a description of this type of stick chair construction. Anyway working on that took up a lot of the day. This chair is in my sons room, but slightly grubby now as the dog rubs his ears along the front of it.
I had resolved to hand in the thing personally as the office is quite nearby and it was 40% off day for icecream at our local supermarket so I went along to collect some deserts on the round trip. My wife handed me the little point card for the supermarket as I was leaving, saying she didn't really know what good it was. I said I would ask at the shop. The cashier explained that there was a little machine in the shop for you to check your points on. Incidentally, the cashier is no such thing any more, simply a device for passing things over a bar code and feeding money into the register. There is no handling of change or calculating done, the machine eats the money fed to it through slots and feeds the change out down a chute.
The little card machine confounded me for a moment as I couln't figure out what to do with the card to get it to read it. There was a little slot on the front, and the display, that was all. I could read the instructions, "Kazasu" your card with the bar code facing up, but I had no idea what the word "Kazasu"meant, so that was no help. I tried the card in the slot in various ways, crouched down and sniffed it, or at least checked it out like the primitive form of primate I am. Then somehow it hit me that all I had to do was put the card on the little counter of the machine and an almost invisible laser mesh would scan it. It made me chuckle, for a second, then it got me again by showing me three boxes and asking me to chose one on the display. I couldn't see the point, but did it. This was a little enticer for the customers, it gave you a chance to win two points or one. Then finally I got to the main screen where it said I had 1945 points and I could get up to three coupons for 500 points that were worth one yen per point. So I did and chuckled again to see the coupons being spouted out of the slot I had explored tentatively with the card edges. It was unfortunate that I was not a little more cautious with the machine, I could have saved myself all the hassle of learning to handle this unfamiliar technology by just sidling about for a bit and observing. Nearly every customer seemed to stop by at the thing and pass their card to get their little bonus point three card choice. I suppose it indicates the state of the economy in some way. We can still afford the luxury of a drop of icecream, but we take the trouble to buy it on the day when it is 40% off. A lot has changed at this shop since I was last there a month or so ago.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Over and out

I really shouldn't look at the BBC before coming on to do this. I am having a day of illustrative silence. Angolan actors shot dead by police with no accountability. Iraqi interpreters and translators in danger of their lives for lack of support from my British brethren, just for doing a little of what I do most days. The world is getting me down and I have no say about it, more importantly no idea how to make it any better.
It makes it very hard to put anything positive out in to it.
Use your wireless imagination to picture me sitting on my sofa in the wooded mountains outside Tokyo feet towards the stove, a few yards away from my son at the other end of the living room noodling on the piano.
Out in the cold of the night, just within earshot of that sound flying squirrels chirupping up in the tall cedar trees, gathering bark for bedding perhaps. Further away still in our small town my wife at a year end party with the ladies she studies sign language with. Many miles away in the metropolis my daughter, also partying with fellow students. Then, somewhere on the same circle that defines the surface of my home planet, there is you.
Now, allow your mind to turn its back on us all and warp out to float near a distant star, look back and search perhaps in vain for the tiny dot that we have become and tell me in a whisper if you seriously think that you and I are more embittered strangers than we are kith and kin.
Good grief.
Right, you can come back now and have a cup of tea or something, I am off for my own go on the piano.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Not feeling inspired to make my hands dirty anymore today, so no drawing. The offcuts from one of those logs went in the stove this evening, burning very nicely and we need them to do so with the cold getting more severe. I suppose it is difficult to get a picture of life elsewhere with pictures, even being in a place it is hard to take in a lot. I remember a friend of my wife's coming to visit and being told that I had made the stove. It just didn't occur to her that it meant I had made the whole thing, twiddles and all. She said that she had just assumed there was some place where you could buy bits like the door and then fix them on.
I remember when I was sketching ideas for the thing that the door arrangement might look a bit like the sun and the moon with the round window and round air vent. Certainly a hot and fiery sun today. There appears to be some sort of evil looking chap with wicked eyebrows poking his head out of the flames in there, thankfully not actually the case. Approximately seven seasons of solar storage being consumed for us to toast our feet in front of.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


More chainsaw troubles today. I got nowhere with repairs failing as soon as mended. Went to get more wood with Sammy. Our evening job was changing the tires over for winter snow tires as the roads have been getting a bit slick lately. Sammy putting on the nuts here.
There was a big change in policy a few years ago when the studded variety of snow tyres were banned and now everyone uses studless. Those old studded tires are still getting washed up at the dam, so many people obviously just chucked their old ones in the rivers or lakes.
Last job was just to check on chainsaw models available at the local shops and buy a little jack plug to mend a set of headphones. They almost always break because of a wire failure at the jack plug end at least that repair worked out OK. One change at the store was little devices to plug into the socket so that you can see a digital read out of how much CO2 is being produced due to your power consumption. It begs the question, how much CO2 was produced in the manufacture of the device. I don't think they were selling like hot cakes thankfully, but at least it shows there is a concern for the issue. Some of the newsletters on investments I subscribe to are tauting Uranium as a nifty investment while the world demand for power continues and fossils are being given their second shot at extinction. I wonder how long a nuclear power station lasts, it is a bit like those kidney transplants, they never mention that the thing does have a well defined and relatively short life span that can not be extended. Nothing quite so useless as a giant lump of radio active concrete. Mind you those same newsletters also recommend the companies that manufacture weapons such as the recently developed micro wave crowd control ray beam. And such investments certainly pay well, but I am not one of those doing the investing in that direction.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Drawing over something else. The stove died down while I was on the skype call this evening so I decided to pluck it up with some of the sawdust from the weeks work. I had collected it in one of those big yellow plastic pickle bins I have mentioned before. I got that in and scooped out little batches on to newspaper to roll up into Christmas parcels ready to pop in the hatch on top of the stove.
I often stop to look at stuff in the paper before it goes to ashes, not good enough at reading Japanese to make too much sense of the world. Last week I was looking at an article about Honda's efforts to develop silicon free solar panels and today I was looking at a little article about an 11meter long sperm whale that had been washed up on the coast.
Anyway, I stuck with the drawing just long enough to go through three versions on top of what was already there.

Friday, December 14, 2007

And Wide

I don't come from a long line of plankers, but I am making up for lost time. I slid down another log to lie on the bigger one so that I could work standing up. I had taken off one side from this one while I was waiting for a chap to come and load the logs on to the truck with a big grabber at the stock yard. so I had a flat side to lay it down on. Once I had it with one end on the log it was too heavy for me to slide along, so I hitched it up to a chain block attached to the press as a humble dead weight. I guess I could have stuck a roller under it, but I opted for the cautious approach.
I only took off one plank as I think the log may come in handy as a beam in some future project like the one back in September now that it is down to a more reasonable thickness.
At the back is the shed with our snow tires, plywood, windows, blue sheets, the Fly press and a set of aluminium steps. On the left up top is the guard rail along the road and a load of timber awaiting decisions leaning against the wall. Right is the firewood stack and the post for a little winch arm I use when doing larger aluminium casting pours. Nearer to us the chopping stump with the essential salad oil, a small hand axe and the impact driver for attaching those lengths of 2x4 to the ends of the logs to rest the C girder on. Over on the left I can see my little plastering hod still lying around from the last project.
I found an interesting exercise for the shoulder problem. We bought one of those speed bags for boxers that my son wanted last birthday I think. I had a go on that today when I stuck it back up after spotting that it was deflated. I could feel those little muscle movements pulling things together. I shall try and keep practicing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Air chisel

Strangely mild out today after a morning of rain. Luckily that turned out to be the time I was on the computer earning the daily ha'penny. After attending to lunch and a brief walk with the pup I got out the air chisel and had a go at the canker in the heart of my log. I started out in my little plastic sandals known as "Bensan" here. Ben is short for benjo or toilet and san is more obviously short for sandals. You take your shoes off to get in a place, like a school or a small hotel, maybe change into sandals to walk around inside and then change again to get into the toilet. So if your name is Ben, watch out for sniggering when people call you Bensan. Not really, all are far too polite to snicker at such trivia. Anyway as I got more involved in the delights of pealing away shavings of wood with the power of two horses turning the wheels of my compressor to back me up, my sandals fell off the flat of the log and I was left in summer attire up to the ankles..

I am still not sure how the log will turn out, it may be viable as a kind of hollowed out seat, or I may be able to fill in with another material or an inset of something woven. We shall see.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Logins J

Another playground scene from this evening as dusk dropped like a velvet whatsname. I am afraid I am guilty of some really abusive comments toward my chainsaw and its manufacturer Hitachi or at least the chainsaw design team back when this model was a twinkle in their eye. Mainly due to the circumstance that my shoulder is not feeling very well attached at present and tugging on the rip cord start mechanism is not a favorite activity. After fitting my new chain the saw worked lovely down one side, then when I switched the C girder over to the other side to come back down and complete the cut the sausage wouldn't start at all. I thought I might whip off the spark plug as I had already checked the filter for the carburetor. That was when the indignant cursing came in. Who on gods good earth would design a thing that needs the whole handle assembly to be taken off just to get the plug out for a bit of a cleaning. Hee-bloody-tachi was my politest answer. I suppose Hitachi mechanics have some super socket wrench that will do the job, but mine was way too big to get in the space allowed. Anyway, it was growing dark and I was determined not to have to take the whole thing to bits, so I managed with a detached socket and a pair of mole grips. I suppose it was just the thought that made the difference, but the little blighter did actually start up after some more pulling and I got another plank off the log. Still a big void in the center of the plank. I will have a bit of a go at the uppermost surface of the log here using the pneumatic chisel tomorrow and see if I will be able to get a seat out of the next plank to come off Jimmy Logins. Too pooped to get on to drawing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I got back on the chainsawing eventually today. I took the thing to bits on the floor to get at the oil pump, but even after cleaning it all out it doesn't seem happy to perform its function. So, still having to dowse the chain with oil to encourage progress. The wood was also not particularly sparkling inside. So far nothing suited for the purpose I had in mind, but hopefully tomorrow may offer up something better. I will get a new chain for the saw as I am down to tiny stub teeth now on a blade that was pulled from a saw at the rubbish tip in the first place.
On to computer work for the evening.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More mechanicals

It was a few years ago that I made a little trolley type thing to attach to my chainsaw to aid in cutting planks from logs. It guides the machine along a length of pressed metal C girder with four little casters to run along the edges in the gap of the C. I screw a length of 2x4 across each end of the log with the ends poking out on both sides to rest the girder on, then screw said girder to the 2x4s. I use a spirit level on the two bits of wood when I screw them on to get them in a plane if there is no room to sight along them to do that. As usual I was kneeling on the floor to do the cutting. An added attraction today was having to feed the chain with oil every few minutes as the oil pump was playing up. Today it was Nishin salad oil as I had been given some that was about 2o years past its sell by date and good for little else. That is the can standing on the log. It takes a while to get the cut done and with your lug holes right next to the engine the whole time it is well worth protecting the ears. So, not sporting a galactic princess or soviet gymnast hair do after all.
Ideally I should be able to go right through in one cut, but my chainsaw bar is not long enough so I have to complete the cut as best as possible. It got dark today before I got to do that and see much of the cut surface of the first plank, the saw was getting blunt anyway, so a job for tomorrow. I had spent a while with levers and whatnot moving the log into position and driving up to get the girder back from where I had last used it on some cedar logs up the mountain.
This was the largest of the logs I collected last week with about 55cm diameter of heart wood at the widest. I am hoping it will give a plank large enough for the seat of a kind of couch I have been asked to make.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Pressure of work and all that. No excuse.
Bongoli is the Japanese for a hair ball, in our family at least, if not nationwide. Our retriever had a bit of a dreadlock issue on his tail, so I did a spot of pruning.
In a moment of levity on arising from a light lunch to find everyone else preoccupied in various ways I also added a little something and went off chuckling to myself. I hoped somebody might spot the little munchkin later. Sure enough after I had forgotten all about it my wife spotted it on the floor next to the dog on his mat. My kids said they had never heard her laugh like that before. It did look like the mutt had spawned a shy little pup of his own.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Skype day again.
My daughter is now in her third year of an architecture course. This is her desk area. The rest of the space is pretty similar, so she has had the misfortune to inherit my mess gene. She had an evaluation session for her most recent doo yesterday. I guess the results are what count and she says that her effort was well received. Perhaps she might let me take a snap of the model tomorrow.
My main activity of the day was sticking a new handle on the axe. While I was wielding the spokeshaves Sammy made do with a temporary one designed for some other type of tool that I found somewhere.
I was also trying to further my effort to get my own work space back into some kind of order, but soon got sidetracked putting some wavy grained Zelkova through the bandsaw to see what it was like inside. I was also asked in the week if I would like to submit ideas for what to do with all that cedar up the mountains, furniture or some other kind of design. It is a competition, which is not my cup of tea, but if I eliminate that from my mind and just put out a few ideas there may be some result down the road.
Anyay, I also sliced up a few branches of cedar to get some ideas going.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Soup's up

Not enough time to stick at it today, but this is what I seemed to see in the scribble I did to get my brain box working. Referring back to yesterday's activity, I have the cut off 10kg LPG steel gas cylinder that acts as a crucible in the furnace I made a few years ago and I ladle out hot metal to pour the little polystyrene foam things the kids have made and also hand impressions in the sand. This method means that there is no big volume of molten metal being poured. The main danger is then adding metal to the pot and dipping in the ladle. It has to be deeply ingrained in the consciousness that you never put anything in the molten metal without pausing to heat it and drive off moisture. Another year without any serious accident, thank goodness. (December 7 2006 has a little picture of the scene from that year showing the furnace, ladling and the sand boxes) The head teacher who was helping me out for the afternoon did the last couple of pours as I was busy chopping off the little sprues from the stuff we had made. I had remembered to take the grinder and after cutting about half way through they came off with a few taps from a ball peen.
They are all back in the pot again now waiting to be melted down in to something else.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I suppose most people know that Japan is one of those countries where shoes are not worn in the home. In the winter it gets a bit more troublesome as boots and whatnot come out of their burrows. One certainly curses ones forgetfulness a lot more when having to go in and out, I sometimes creep in on my knees if what I have forgotten is just inside the door. Here I am just leaving home and running through what I may have forgotten before the final foot goes home.
I had the school volunteer club thing today melting aluminium scrap and doing some sand casting. As usual not on the ball with taking photos. Some of the kids made stuff that showed a tiny hint of flair and all got something to take home, which was good. At one point just after I arrived I thought the old bath tub heater I use had given up the ghost. I had it to bits and cleaned the oil jets three times before the little sausage would do its job. I had tried it out yesterday, and it worked perfectly, I suppose I ran it just enough to shake all the gunk loose.
It was lucky that I had arrived in good time with an hour and a half to get set up and melting. By the time the kids arrived I had a good three or four liters of metal flopping about in the old gas cylinder I use as a crucible.
Out of time, it is my turn in the bath to ease the fatigue from the frame.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I missed my usual blogging hour today attending a lecture at the local school. A strange doo in which there was a video on child soldiers around the world and then an illustrator of kids books talking about the hardships of her youth. She started with her earliest memory of awaking to find her mother dead in bed next to her at the age of 3. There were in fact a few more early memories and not one of them contained much in the way of happy times. She seemed fairly up together getting all the nastiness out in the open and thankfully survived the subsequent fairly horrible step parenting.
I found that one of my more distant neighbors was also in attendance having got there under his own somewhat limited steam, so I ferried him back home. He had been having trouble keeping the eyelids up after the long walk there and with the warm of the room. I find myself in the same predicament now, so I will have to do without visuals for now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Belting up

I forgot the most important bit of yesterday. When I got home in the evening I found my boy outside diligently chopping firewood.
He didn't get to do that today, I side tracked him as soon as he got back from college. I had him work the crane while I ran about fiddling with the belts on the lumps of driftwood I had brought back from the dam side. One of the lumps I brought back was pretty big, so I have laid it flat out so that I can take some of the rotten bits off, but the others that I cut to about six foot long are standing against the wall at the back of the wood yard area. We had to clear a bit of space
by shifting the mountain of logs cut ready to be chopped up. I didn't like the sling job on one of these, so once we had it down I reset the belt higher up and we pulled it up vertical to lean with the rest. Finally we loaded the furnace and boxes of fine sand on to the truck to take to the school ready for the aluminium casting session on Thursday.
Slightly bigger paper today, about A3 size. Courtesy of some kind donor it has a bit more tooth than cartridge and it is thick enough to draw for longer. A big virtue when I have no idea what I am starting out on as was the case today. Scribble until something appears.

Monday, December 03, 2007

West wing

I had a day of all sorts to go with the variable weather.
I started out with a bit of home handy man work searching out a replacement door knob set for the bathroom. I like it when some little action taken years ago like putting aside an old door knob from some derelict number pays off. The phrase "waste not want not" is so economical in itself that I had passed quite a few summers on the planet before I realized what it meant, I can remember pretending to understand when people used it. I almost never use it myself, but I constantly follow the concept in a practical way.
The vital working bits of the old door knob had just rusted to extinction, the door it had lived out its life in came from the house of a friend that was being demolished. The bathtub and the window from their utilities are now also part of our washhouse, so no doubt they were sad to see their little buddy popped into a bag for recycling. I hope they are not being unfriendly to the item of almost identical ugliness that has taken its place.
Next I was out in the drizzle at the wood yard. Mostly lurking about, but lending a hand as they were shifting the flotsam from the dam up on to trucks and then dumping it alongside other mountains of driftwood. I was lurking about till lunch time so that one of the big diggers with a grabber would be free to grab a couple of large limbs of Zelkova wood I had my eye on. The driver did me a kindness and hoiked those out for me before he broke out the chopsticks. I thought I might have to do the driving, which would have been fun, but probably a more lengthy operation. It is many years since my last go on one of those machines. I will be borrowing a crane to go and pick them up tomorrow.
In the afternoon as the sun was emerging oh so faintly I went to fit a sensor light on the entrance to the cafe. This photo shows how it lights up the window from behind as you pass under the timber portal structure. It also lights up the steps down to the cafe.
This is the view from the north western quarter between the house and the sign looking south east over the little stub of wall with the closed sign on it at the right of yesterday's photo.
I also connected up the spot lights for the sign, but there was nobody home to turn them on, what a shame, I will have to wait for another chance to see what that looks like.
In the real world things like chain link fences are shut out from the mind as the color of the window draws the attention away from them. But the camera soaks up everything with equal clarity and throws it back out as a flat likeness.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Job done

One of those days where other duties take over and getting dirtied up drawing at the end of the day does not seem like the done thing. I took a snap of the place after we had taken all the scaffolding poles back to their bunk beds yesterday evening. Our little truck was having its MOT done, so we borrowed a 2ton number for the job. Sammy did the driving on the way back from the pole drop off as the exit from this place is a narrow road with a traffic light and a steep hill start, which was a bit too much to ask of a first timer in a bigger then usual vehicle. If you were looking at yesterdays drawing I guess it would put me standing up on that fence with white angle iron edging to the left of the structure I have just completed. That fence and the electrical boxes next door came in handy as perches for the tear down of the scaffolding. I will try to take a few more pictures that give some idea of the structure from different perspectives. We did actually have a couple of reasonable earthquakes the other week, and apparently no damage, so that was a useful test.
Today's work was mainly hauling firewood, but I did test out the shoulder on some chopping with the axe, which went OK as it doesn't really need much strength.
Hopefully there will be just enough time for me to have a tinkle on the piano before dinner goes on the table.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Take this one, too, could you?

I got the lights and other bits done this morning and then Sammy came along in the afternoon and together we took down the scaffolding. A job that really needs an extra pair of hands to be done safely.
I am guilty of getting a bit gabby lately, but one thing that niggles me though, if I were a Muslim, would it be forbidden for me to make images like this that are related to the human form? Deep waters indeed, perhaps I ought to do some research into this area of human society of which I am almost inconceivably ignorant. I have just Googled and I am afraid my ignorance is no excuse for my unintentional blasphemy. Thankfully the Islamic law apparently only applies to those who follow Islam and I can now never be one of those, because my self indulgence in making these scribbly drawings is now far too deeply ingrained.
Hey ho.
Those who do follow Islam have my respect for their restraint, especially the children, who must also be banned from this practice. I suppose they just stick to drawing geometric patterns. That was what I used to do in my news book when I couldn't think of anything else to draw.