Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I think it is sometimes nice to put in the immediate surroundings, here is my drawing area on the floor in front of the sofa with the bowl of charcoal from the stove, the eraser, sletchbook and feet. Just below the floor is where I was working earlier today.
My main job for the day was again on the computer, but I managed to get several leg joints fitted. I place one of the offcuts from the tenon cutting on the little ledge indicated in the drawing yesterday. Where my left hand is here. Then whack on that to force the leg tenon into the mortice.
To get the chap out again for further fitting or once I have a good fit, I put a stake into the mortice on the other side and whack away at that, which is the activity here. The stake is in the mortice down by my right knee bearing on the tip of the tenon for the leg by my left leg. The big plastic hammer from my second hand purchases the other week is coming in handy.
I will saw the little ledges right back as far as I can a little later on, so that the legs are a lot closer to the final shape, but they will stay on to allow some proper clamping purchase when I stick it all together. They will then be chiselled or sanded off.

Charcoal on Cartridge 38x53cm

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Shoulder trim

Hiding out behind the bandsaw.
I trimmed all the tenon shoulders this afternoon and made the tenons into a sort of L shape that I think offers enough strength for the design. There is also an issue of clamping and fitting by hammering, so I cut the little step into the pieces that you can see on the right with the little offcut pointing to it. Each leg needs to be fitted to its mortice and luckily the longer section of mortice goes right through the central post, so I can whack them out from the other side with a stake each time they need to be taken out for a bit more work. I like it when some decision works out to my advantage and turns out to be something I can use again. The holes the chain chisel made were pretty true overall and mate up nicely. All these parts are for the table laid out on graph paper back on Feb. 14th.

Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tenon cutter

Another of the bell and whistle machines. This has one motor that whizzes round four blades to cut a tenon with one stroke. Two big ones that cut the cheaks and the two on a plane at the front to cut the shoulders. The work is held in a vice that can slide left to right and back and forth. The wheel at the bottom controls the left and right motion and there is another wheel on the opposite side that operates the vice which automatically centers the wood each time. My left hand is on the lever that slides the vice back and forth to hold it steady while the right pushes down on a lever to slide all the blades down into the wood.
I only had to do eight tenons, but I have my protective stuff on here, which is much to be recommended. Dust mask and ear protectors. I had the dust mask on when doing the chain cutting the other day, but forgot that for the drawing, I also neglected to do for the ears and paid the price noticing a nasty ringing later on.
This machine was inherited from a local carpenter when he stopped doing comercial work and sent it back to the shop where he had bought it for disposal. He came round the next day and mentioned he had chucked it having found me not at home the day before. This was too tragic a missed oportunity, so I went round to the shop and they still had it on their truck ready to be dissected. Saved from destruction it only needed a bit of lubrication and some welding to get it back up to scratch. It sits in the corner a lot, but when it comes out it really saves me a lot of slogging work and marking up time.
Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Sunday, February 25, 2007

King Kong

Left it till late again. Now we are watching king kong in bed. Well, futons. Sammy is cleaning his teath and my daughter is hiding behind the folds of the futon. The misses came in to join us a bit late to get into the sketching session.
By the fact that this movie has found its way to TV so soon I suppose it was not popular with the modern audience. I guess it is just too sad in its portrayal of monkeys gone mad, and as a species we do seem to have a supreme capacity for utter lunacy. What a shame more children of innocence and animals don't have voting rights, especially gorillas.

10minutes on Artrage 2 with tablet PC

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Octagonal table post

I finally got a big enough block of time to spend on the Chain morticing. The machine worked fine, but I wasn't happy with the single clamp. I put a long half inch bolt through the base and passed that through some lengths of 3/4 inch pipe and then popped some pony clamp heads on there. They then bite on a piece of wood that runs under the octagonal lump. I need to do six cuts for each mortice and the adjustment procedure is simply losening and taping with the plastic hammer to the right spot. The left thumb is ready to handle the catch that holds the chain off the wood when the head is pulled up fully and the right is poised on the switch to turn the thing off quick if there is an "incident". So far no mean surprises and I am half done.
I am guessing there is going to be a fair amount of work in adjusting the holes with a hammer and chisel.

Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Friday, February 23, 2007

Speed ball

I keep missing my drawing time and that meant I ended up scrabbling for the paper at 11 this evening. Today the young chap in the home wanted to put up one of those speed balls for boxers in his room, so we used some of those 2x6 cutoffs to make a frame to screw up onto a corner and then screwed on a couple of pretty heavy boards underneath to attach the swivel plate to. Anyway, it looks like a gym in there now, but we only got done with that at 8 due to the computer workload during the day and evening meal time etc is not to be messed with. I guess the good side is that I am easy enough with the drawing to sit down and do it anyway, for better or worse.
Charcoal on cartridge 30x40cm

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Look Down

It is a little late again as I went on a baby day out in Tokyo. I mainly went to sort out some financial stuff, but also met with friends and went on my first trip to the top of Tokyo Tower. I am not sure how it compares to the Eifel height wise, but it is not quite as easthetic seen from below, there is more of a sense of straight lines making curves. I was tempted to cheap out and only go up to 150 meters, but ended up going right to the top for 1400 yen. I took a roll and a doughnut and a bottle of coffee up to make the stay a bit more pleasant. Luckily I had my little pocket lens to look down at the sights. The most interesting zoom in ones were a load of high school kids in track suits laid out on the floor doing stretches ready for soccer practice. View wise it was great to see how close the sea was when you just don't get any sense of it being there when walking about down below. At the 150m height there is a glass panel in the floor, which is the sketchy theme for today. The other difference from the paris palaver is that the tower is orange. Back to normal paper drawing tomorrow.
5mins with Artrage 2 on Tablet PC

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wood Bound

Today's activity was all action. I was very worried the ankle had given up the ghost yesterday, but pleased to find that it worked pretty well all day sorting stuff from the top of the wood pile. I got a load of very nice timber back in the summer from a company that is involved in the demolition business. Their warehouse used to be the home of a carpenter who worked on temples and he obviously didn't like throwing things away. They heard of my timber preference via a designer I do work for and I saved them the expense of having some of it weighed in at the local incinerator (about 150 quid a truckload). Today I went with a local guy (the chap who brought the firewood for me on saturday and monday) to clear out another section of his hoard of unmentionables. This lot was mainly for use in general construction, so the chap who came along took most of it (filling his patiently waiting two ton truck to the gunnels) while the effort got me a few pieces that were worth the trip and cleared a lot of the pile away to get me closer to the better timber at the bottom. Sad that the united nations does not work out as well.
With regard to my experimentations with glucosamine, I found I experienced a great deal of benefit from a brand that also contained Turmeric extract. I dismissed the turmeric in my mind as an incidental ingredient, but having switched to a different brand with none of it in I found my condition going down hill again. As a stop gap measure yesterday I took a spoonful of turmeric with the stuff and I am pretty sure the relief today was attributable to that. I am back on the original brand now and hope to be normal again soon. Apparently curcumin, the item extracted from the turmeric is a natural anti inflamatory, so if you are a fan of the more ethnic recipes and have jippy joints throw the stuff in with no niggardly hand.
If you are a meativore, chicken soaks it up well and if the veg is your cup of tea I recommend string beans as well as other usual suspects.
Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sam TV

I had a fairly vigorous day with the firewood today and it left me somewhat drained. An early start tomorrow, so little time for sketching. I had a quick go immediately after supper while the kids were watching the animated movie Kiki's delivery service. It is a long time since they last saw it I guess, but it is a well made little thing and it was nice to find that there wasn't much I couldn't understand on the language front. This is sammy, who has the advantage on us as he has already been in the bath. I suffered a nasty twisted ankle a several months ago and had recently been getting a lot of benefit from glucosamine tablets. My first batch ran out about a week ago and I changed brands. Sadly the new lot is letting me down, so I will change back to the original type and hope they resume their duties.

Pencil on cartridge 16x21cm

Monday, February 19, 2007

Stick surplus

I remember explaining this circular saw cutting posture to a chap a few years ago. If you have no stopper for horizontal cutting where you are working and you have a lot of cuts to do you hold the back of the saw up high and push down on your cut so the work can't go anywhere. It also makes it really hard for the saw to kick back as you have all of your upper body weight to put behind it if you need to. When I was showing the guy I promptly sawed through a nail, because I was so intent on making the point rather than checking for the right spot to saw. Hey ho. I still won't let my son use a circular saw as I consider it one of the most dangerous buggers out there, but the day is fast approaching. Watching people use a tool is an education, but you have to actually pick the thing up to get anywhere. When I was younger I remember getting into a spot once with some of my dads tools, it was an arbor set up with a little table saw thing on one end of an arbor and a cone thing that grabbed a felt wheel for polishing on the other end. The felt wheel was hardly ever on the thing and one day when I was working on the saw it decided to have a go at my dangling sweater. It got quite a grip on it and had me pulled right in towards the saw so that I could only just reach the switch. Kids aye, what are they like. I was more worried about pulling the sweater back into shape to avoid disclosing the event than the near miss with the saw.
We now have a mountain of wood to work through. It is hard not to start seeing all this stuff as materials, there is a huge pile of zelkova sticks out there that could be used for walking sticks or stick chairs. I shall just have to harden the heart and cut as many up as I can. There are also masses of zelkova stumps that look as thougth they should be used for something.
So much stuff out there that it was easier to chop up some of the sticks this evening than to get through to the wood pile.
Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Neck ache

Back on the small paper from lack of time. The guys with the chainsaws went ahead with tree cutting this morning despite the rain. They were only cutting branches and they had a nice crane with a bucket to work from with all the controls up in the arm. There were a few of us down on the ground watching the guy up top and getting neck ache. Each time a mountain of cut stuff built up on the ground we went in to clear up and I chopped out the bits that were big enough to warrant taking home for the stove. The rest got chucked down into the valley. So we have more wood to add to the stock. I got pretty wet and stayed out to chop up all the branches that were small enough for the circular saw to cut through before coming in for shower and lunch. Then back to the computer for more translation work.

Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Filler upper

A regular winter pastime. Filling the stove. Just as it was getting dark a chap from a little further down the road dropped by with a load of wood from a tree felling he had done. I couldn't resist just poping a bit of the new stuff in this evening just before I was due to start drawing. So the scene is recorded while fresh in my mind.
The first stove we had was a horizontal type thing like box and it was always a challenge to get it filled up. This one with a body made from an old compressor tank is a lot less trouble. I made the little round lid in the plate at the top without thinking too much about it, but it makes it really simple to pop in a load of wood, you just drop it in and try to get it sitting at odd angles to let the air flow around it. Even with this green hardwood, it burns very nicely with the wood at the bottom getting a lot of heat from the charcoal and drying out the wood stacked on top that then burns down to form new charcoal. I just have a straight chimney, so a few taps on that is usually enough to knock the tar off so that it falls back into the fire.
I spent most of the day on drawings for projects and looking for hints on building with scaffolding pipe. It is one of the few times I have been dissapointed by the Internet as a source of information.
Charcoal on cartridge 38x53cm

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chain morticer

Just in case you are not familiar with the chain morticer here he is. A geared motor drives a sprocket which powers a complicated little toothed chain like a mini wide chainsaw blade. This arrangement can be slid up and down on two steel pipes to be pushed down by the two handles on the side and cut a slot into wood held under the machine. I had to take th ething apart a little as the chain had stretched beyond the scope of the adjuster so it would not tension up properly.
It works OK now and is a little sharper.
Sammy did a little digging again, but it was another split day with translation work in the morning. His excavation is not quite as speedy as one would hope, but it is nice to see some new space opening up. And there is a nice lot of new brown earth down in the field.
Charcoal on cartridge 45x55cm

Thursday, February 15, 2007


If you look at the plan of the table from yesterday you will see that the central hub for the leg structure is an octagonal post. This is him laid on the bench ready to be cut to length. Here we are doing a last twist in on a line down through the middle of the lump. This guarantees that the lines on either side are in the same plane. Sammy took a moment away from the bucket and spade work to hold the trisquare at the other end. Once I had accurate center lines for four opposite sides I put a line around the chap and chopped the end off. The post is a foot in diameter. My next step is to adapt a chain morice cutting machine to cut all my mortices about five inches deep. I gave that a quick go this evening, and the first move tomorrow will be to sharpen it as it is burning its way through the wood rather than cutting. I found the tool led by the side of the road a few years ago, so I guess it will be a welcome change for it to get some maintenance.
I must make time to buy some bigger paper.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Another day at the computer. I took a break earlier to do a quick measured sketch of the table I am working on. I was getting worried about the scale of the parts, but it looks as though it will be OK. This is at 1/10scale, somehow drawing it out helps get a feel of whether the joints will be strong enough and gives an idea of balance. I still have a way to go with design, but the twiddly bits come after the joints are cut and fitted anyway.
We have a bit of a storm coming in here, so a good day to be at the desk work.
Sammy had another few hours at digging as that is indoors except when he wheels the barrow out to dump the earth in the field.
Righty ho, back to work

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Well, I did say I would try, but time is not on my side. I didn't manage to get all of my work down the other end of the shop, but sammy and I managed not to get in each others way too much. I worked on some table leg pieces getting them ready for cutting tenon joints. Using the bandsaw here to trim the ends.
There is sometimes a sense of this blog writing being very draining to the soul. Then sometimes I get a comment or see someone elses blog and it becomes a source of energy. At yet other times some numbered individual leaves me an advertisement for firefox, which I already use. I suppose there is some tiny income associated with that. I assure you those comments are not a source of energy for me, but a drain and an affirmation that money can not buy happiness.
Right, dinner time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

TV and Dinner

A day with the computer again working on translation.
This sums up the scene after dinner here, my daughter watching a movie curled up on the floor next to the low table we eat at with her head on one of the matresses we then spread out to sleep on when all is tidied away.
There is a peculiar contrast between my everyday and the nastiness in the news. The first of the crocuses that survived the animal onslaught of winter came out today, so something I did back in autumn paid off a little. I still remember working on a little house down the road back in 2003 when the Armed Forces Radio, (which is about the only wireless in English out in the far east here) broadcast Mr Bush announcing his intent to attack Iraq in his own good time. Now we have the spring coming up and more ridiculous evidence being put forward as reason.
There is obviously no mother figure in the world large enough to give that country a slap on the head and tell it to shut up, but surely there must be enough sharp minded women in the country itself to have the same effect. It truly would be a campaign of shock and awe if they allow their government to doing exactly the same thing again. Fortunately I am unable to focus my mind on such shocking idiocy and awesome foolishness for too long or it would go pop and my think box would be permanently boggled. I'll try and get back to a reasonable length of drawing session tomorrow.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Sunday, February 11, 2007

One more piece

The last job of the day, gathering in firewood for the evening sticks in my mind. Probably because sammy does it more often than me these days. We both had a go today, two arm loads each. It is most satisfying when the stack is high enough to make us reach up to get stuff down from the top. It is so now and two ranks deep. So here I am taking just one more piece before coming in to have a crack at this drawing.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Day off

I had a dusty day down in the shop today reorganizing stuff so that sammy can get on with his digging at one end tomorrow while I have some space at the other. The weather was very mild and it felt a bit like spring cleaning. Anyway, I felt in need of a bit of a break, so got out the hair cutting mirror for a go at the SP. I am getting better at choosing the lumps of charcoal from the ashcan by touch. I think the crystaline ones were from pine, but today's were very soft and easy to use, they don't look like hardwood, so maybe cedar.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Friday, February 09, 2007


Another split day. A morning meeting about another prospective job. Then home for a fiddle about shifting 2x6s around to free up the press area outside. In the afternoon sammy was working on prying out some rotten flooring so that we can extend the shop concrete floor area a bit further once he has dug out a foot or so of earth from there. I worked on fitting a few of the 2x8s from the other week as shelves in the shop. What a blessing these impact drivers are. This 18volt number has just about as much power as the pneumatic one I use hooked up to the compressor. You do need to start off gentle of course and then get your shoulder behind it once the screw has found a home.
I thought I would make it to the end of drawing this one with the stove charcoal, but the compressed charc has the edge for a bit of extra depth in blackness.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Sticking with charcoal again today, mostly the stuff from the fire with a little bit of compressed charcoal used at the end.
These days my time seems to be very split up between all sorts of activities, but here I am using a little cordless circular saw to take the edge off of a plank I think will be used in a door project. I like this saw as it has the blade on the left side of the saw rather than on the right. It is good to have both kinds. There is a tape measure on the more chunky piece of timber next door and my little ink line for snapping out the line I will cut.
At bottom right you can make out something of the shape of my pattern makers vice, which is very handy for all sorts, but not really necessary here as the timber has enough weight to hold itself still on the edge of the bench.
The weather is getting warmer, but I still went for the one piece winter woolly suit today.
The rough charcoal out of the fire leaves a wide range of brush like marks, which are fun to rough out with. It is then possible to get more refined marks by picking a soft piece with an edge. I like the little flat eraser my daughter bought for me back in december. It looks a bit like those small retractable blade cutters, but the blade is an eraser.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


We went on our monthly shopping spree today at a cash and carry type place about 40 minutes away by car.
In the morning I sieved out about a month's worth of ash from the stove. I get the nails out and put them out for the rubbish men on fridays. I took the ash up the road to the lady that gave me the big radish the other month, she likes it for her field and there is always plenty of ash. There were a few bits of unburnt charcoal in there so I started this drawing with some of them. Sammy had a go at chopping again today and lost the head of the axe once, so I also fixed the handle a little and reattached the head on it.

Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


We live on a very quiet road up the mountains a way. I went on a couple of trips to collect firewood with my daughter, she did the driving on three of the runs, which was a first for her, especially with the truck under a heavy load. A lot of the time when the dog wants to get out for a drink or something we just let him pop out on his own and today when he saw us coming home in the truck he ran up the steps to say Hi and it made us both laugh to see the way he looked to his left for any cars coming before he ran out into the road. Just like he had learnt the highway code from Tufty the squirrel as a pup. I guess he is smarter than we thought, gaining knowledge of the world all on his own. I suppose we all do it, finding hints about the world from what we see.
The chimney smoke was making the house look ship like again, but this time steaming down the valley. In fine weather the heat of the sun on the mountains pulls the air up the valley and then it falls back down in the evening.

Washes and charcoal on cartridge 35x25cm

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hammers aplenty

On the way back from a kind of multi purpose mission of door maintenance and whatnot I stopped by at the secondhand place I sometimes patronize. It has changed a bit since I was last there, with much more space being turned over to the nick knacks that the majority of the population seem to prefer. I was tempted by a variety of hammers and eventually had to get a basket to put them in. The old chap that manages the place was camped by the stove, but one of his minions was wobbling about talking to a gent after metal drill bits. I heard her state a price of around a quid for a 6mm one and wondered if I ought to be looking about for some of her dropped marbles. His too actually, because he did pay the equvalent of 50p for it in the end. Anyway by the time I had got my bag of hammers from the pick'n mix the old un was awake and he asked just over a tenner for that, which my small change wouldn't quite get to. So we settled on 2300yen for a nice little collection with a big plastic hammer, cross peen, two ball peens a weird little cobblers hammer as well as some others and a couple of pairs of tongs and flattened grips for bending sheet metal, ohh and a 15mm wood drill with a larger set of blades at the drill end for cutting a recess for a bolt head and washer, which is a useful thing for the frame construction I sometimes find myself involved with.
Time for bed.
The usual suspects on cartridge 25x35cm

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cut short

Having slept on the prospective firewood situation I changed my stance and decided to call a halt to the hauling. The gent had no objection to leaving the several trees in the gorge and suggested another tree coming down next weekend right next to a road a few minutes away would prove a more attractive prospect. Several of the trees that had been cut down had caught on others and were something of a hazard here, so we cut down two more to allow those to continue on their journey downward. The one here was a very close grained kind of oak called Kashi. Used for tool handles and plane bodies. The resulting collapse as the leaning trees and this huge limb fell was something of a crowd pleaser, had there been a crowd to watch. I am the chap at the bottom with a little line tying me on to the main trunk in case some issue arose that meant a haphazard retreat. It wasn't a complicated felling, but it is always best to be prepared. Actually the most dangerous episode was the feller up the top losing track of a cedar trunk he was cutting up on the ground. He did give a shout of alarm, I thought he was on his way down too, thankfully not, but it did mean I was looking the right way and the trunk rolled enthusiastically by me on its way to the water.
Gouache and charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Brain drain

I appear to be more tired than I thought. But, getting something down on paper still seems better to me than nothing.
A chap down the road has asked me if I want a load of trees that he has felled into the gorge below his house. I feel like it is a waste to leave them there, but a lot of work to haul the whole lot out just to burn. I went with sammy today for an hour or so to check how well the winch would work and see what there was down there. We'll see how hard it is to get stuff up tomorrow and call it quits if it is too much work. For the time being I feel drained rather than envigorated by the prospect of scrounging about down in the dell.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Kichijoji birdhouse

I am rather plonking you in the land of the jumblies here with a rather vague go at sketching having just returned from a visit to the metropolops of Tokyo. I went to a little drinking parlor near the Inokashira park in Kichijoji this evening to meet a friend who is normally resident in China these days. That is us at the back. The chaps in front were engaged in some kind of effort at palmistry for a short time in an effort to avoid meaningful conversation. At our table we stuck to the opposite course aiming at the infinite to avoid palmistry, but probably did no better. Aside from the general decor of a tropical bird house in a rather run down zoo, which was delightful as the sun set through the trees outside, the other interesting feature of the hostelry was the gents. Which was a line of stalls directly opposite the doors for the ladies. Fortunately by the time I got there I was suitably anesthetized and the pair of giggling young ladies waiting their turn were no obstacle to the expeditious performance of my mission in that area. And so to bed after an invigorating walk home from the station.
Washes and chalks on cartridge 15x20cm

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nail Monkey

Half a day on translation and dentistry, then a go at firewood collection at the stock yard of the local dam. I shall be sawing that up tomorrow morning for sammy to chop when he comes back from driving school. There really is a lot less wood there than in previous years due to the lack of typhoons last autumn. We finished the day with a shopping spree and another delve into the rubbish bin at a local store for more firewood. Just before we set out we chopped up enough wood for the evening and I collected the last of the stainless steel nails that had gone astray having missed the bucket while Sammy carried the wood over to stack outside the window. I use a barrow, but he likes to carry it all in armfulls for the excercise. I am sure there is something in the nature of these gleening type activities that goes very deep in my monkey character. I am still not sure if I will use these nails for anything, but I feel happier with them in the bucket.

Washes and charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm