Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Engraving test

Unable to settle on anything today, so I had a quick trial run at engraving for the window from the other day. I did a few sketches of plum blossom again (one vaguely visible behind) and then had a go on a little scrap of glass of the same species as I will be using.
I slipped up once, but it seems like it should be possible to produce something that doesn't look too bad. It is bound to be a bit more difficult on a larger piece, but if I work the design in from the back at first so that I have some divets to follow I should then be able to look through from the front and see what I am doing directly. It is a little bit of a positive negative switch for the brain box, but with some side lighting it shouldn't be too much trouble. I may be able to work a bit bigger than this, too.
I am still a bit confused about how much of a 3D relief to make the "image", but it seems like there is sufficient carvability in the depth of material I have available for quite a good sense of depth.
We shall see.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Another day of boat building weather here. We are promised more of the same tomorrow, so we had better start gathering in the animals. When the rain falls this hard the corner of my shop starts to flood a little. Not a huge problem compared to the pictures I see of England's summer, but it is slightly unsettling. I must get it fixed next time I have a patch of free time. Having the kids at home from college is fun. I must try and find them some useful work to do while they are about. Sammy is hoping to get taken on as a temporary postman again as he got on OK with it over the new year.
I wonder if the election results here will bring an end to the slightly more nationalist agenda we have been seeing as well as the moves to loosen the constitution towards participation in armed conflict. I hope so, I am not a fan of the fascist fringe that can sometimes be seen cruising about in black minibuses playing popular songs from the last war on huge speakers bolted to the roof.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Normally at this point in the procedure I click the little picture button and upload. Today I am stuck having strained the creative muscle yesterday and then tired out the rest with the community weed whacking in the morning and the tear down of the stage set up this afternoon.
The memorial ceremony event went fine with one of the performances being given by the 5th and 6th grade students from the local primary school. There were a couple of other lively performances by kids a little older before they came on and I was worried that the locals were going to be outdone, but their simple do of three pieces and a little speech went down very well. As one might imagine the theme of most of the spoken word was world peace, in their speach the kids also related the following tale.

A few years ago we had some heavy snow falls and on arriving at school some kids found that the snow had built up on a statue in the school grounds of a kid reading a book while walking. They commented to the principle that it was a pity the kid had to be out there in the snow and they gave him an umbrella. Some local folk heard about it and arranged for a roof to be built over the statue to keep the weather off of the little tyke in future.
The kids at the school, mine among them, used to learn about the history of the local dam having been built by prisoners during the war. But that somehow stopped happening and none of these kids knew about how many people had died in the construction. So when they heard about this bit of history from one of the organisers of the event, you can imagine that it made an impression. If they felt sorry for a stone statue out in the snow, what might they feel for chaps drowning in concrete.
I think a true democracy might have a few seats set aside for kids like these. They might make some dumb suggestions, but I bet they would ask some highly pertinent questions if they were allowed to speak.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stage bamboo

It is hard to tell very much about today's efforts on the stage from this blurry photo. So a little explanation. Purpose of design is as a temporary monument to the people who died during the construction of the local hydroelectric dam during WW2. The little raised area is 5.4m wide and about 4m deep including the promentary on the front. During the ceremony tomorrow, three kids will light the candles. The candles represent the three countries of China Korea and Japan who each lost people in the construction. Prisoners mainly I think, either of war or for some prohibited activity in the case of Japan. The other little platform in front is for people to lay out flowers in tribute to the chaps. The whole thing is slightly more dynamic in the flesh. The eye lids are beginning to droop as I write, so I must away to the land of nod.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cannon fodder

Very summery weather here now with amazing high clouds building over the mountains from the heat. Insect and plant life is buzzing about everywhere. This little chap decided to sit on the pilot light nozzle for the gas saver while he worked on cleaning some of the shop dust off of his feet. The noise from the cicadas is becoming ever louder during the day and the approach of their calls from down the valley each morning is something that has become ingrained in me as a sound of the summer. They seem to sing as the light hits a certain level and the wave of sound as each animal in turn hits its tolerance point sweeps in from the distance and on up past the house. Now the wave has swept back down again with the cool mountain air of the evening.
The larger dragon flies are about now, too. I spotted one in a dog fight with a small butterfly yesterday, which was a reminder of how little their character changes once they are out of the water, just the same grab and eat monsters, but with a much better look than the gilly glad creatures they are in their youth.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Window glass

Another change of pace today. I had a helper down in the shop, so I didn't want to be doing welding. Cutting glass seemed like a good idea with one other person on hand to consult with. So we had a general tidy up on the bench and changed modes for that. I got the glass for the wooden window done and I will do a bit of engraving on the central clear panel related to the plum blossom theme I guess. I don't want the engraving to be exposed, so the central pane has two sheets of glass and one will have the engraving on it.
I also did the glass for the metal window, which you can just see poking out on the right. I am going to try that as a copper foil bonded stained glass widow to see how it goes. I will put in a thick sheet of clear glass in front of it to make it a slightly more noisy prospect should some idiot burglar decide to have at it. I really don't think the front door is a good prospect for burglars anyway, but one must take all normal precautions. I think the locks I use each have at least a ten minute picking guarantee and they seem pretty solid to me. I think I may have to go on to volunteer work tomorrow and Saturday I have an all day event at a local culture center doing a stage decoration. I hope the weather will clear back up again for that. For the moment we are back in the rainy season.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

State of the nation

Yesterday evening I had another fight with the TIG, the hose was suffering a hemorrhage. I don't think I did too good a job last time I mended it as the flow was so bad the old hose pipe I have it connected to would swell up under the back pressure. This time I applied some of the annealing procedures to the tiny copper pipe cable interface for the "hose" and softened it up to get a better shape to it. It is a fairly simple little arrangement in there with the core wire of the cable running inside a hose so that water can flow right along the metal wire to keep it cool. Then at either end the cable is terminated in these crimped pipe things. Nevertheless it did take a bit of primitive inginuity and hammering to get everything back up together. I had to pull the core right out of its hose, like pulling a snake out of its skin and the clamp it to keep it from retreating back inside while I crimped on the fitting, then coax it back inside its skin again and apply a modified pipe clamp. All better now.
As you can imagine the presence of water on scene when welding is not a happy event. As it is the humidity is so high that if you get any earth failure the old system gets a bit of a jolt.
The metal for the window is just about ready for the final details of drilling holes for screws and bolts to hold it in the door and for the retaining frame for the glass on the inside. Then I will get the young un to apply the tea patina I have described before. Below you can see the fillets from yesterday's picture got some holes put in them in the right places for lock fittings and they are nearly ready to have those little corner bits welded on. My next job is to make some thumb latch fittings to go in the square holes and the actual handle grips.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Another day of metal work. This illustrates the effect of texturing the metal in the press. The top peice has been done and the bottom one is about to be. The work put into the metal also hardens it, so it needs anealing again before it can be flattened back out to its final shape. The deaper the texture the more the piece gets deformed. No time for drawing, never mind.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Froggy triangle

Rather a blatant infringement of the personal information act, but as long as I don't disclose any names I don't suppose the authorities will complain. I thought the tree frogs had finished laying for the year, but the bell for round two must have sounded for these. The chap on the end of the congo hopped off for most of the day, but he was back on again when I came up from the shop just now. There is a little foamy ball of eggs in the branches over the roof, which is not good, so I put a plastic bowl with some pond water under it for now, but it will need moving to a spot over the pond once the rain stops. I thought these were going to lay where they were, but they have started to move. I am glad because they weren't over water either and I was begining to worry about the senses of the current generation.
For the uninitiated, the foamy ball hangs in the tree for a few days while the tadpoles get to a swim about size, then they wiggle about and kind of melt their way through the outer shell of the foam so that they can drop down into the water that should be under their foam home. In more homely news, sammy passed his tree name test, but he won't get his score and the names he got wrong till tomorrow. I had a solid day on the twigs again and also started on the parts for the door handles.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Twig welder

Having got the window fitted yesterday I spent a few hours on welding today. Sticking together all those twigs, leaves and blossoms that I have been making for a while. I suppose I needed to see the window in before I could focus on an arrangement. I laid the parts out and had the portable bandsaw on the bench to chop them to size as I went along. Then once I had a few bits wired on to the frame I popped it in the door to see if I was on the right lines. It looked OK, so more of the same tomorrow adding a few more leaves and little buddy blobs along the ends of all the remaining twigs then finally welding the whole lot onto the main frame as unobtrusively as possible.
Raw materials were flat bar, square bar and rounds cut off from rebar from a demolition site as blanks for the flowers.
Texture applied to flat and square bar with tools made for the fly press. Flowers also from tool made for fly press. Welding is all done with a TIG welder from a company called Dayok in Taiwan. This also does plasma cutting, but I haven't used that much yet. It was about 900 dollars when I got it, which seemed like a bargain to me and I have no complaints so far.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Window fit

Not in jail or doing my rooster impression, I spent an hour or so fitting the metal window frame into the door. It is one of those inca stone work jobs where one side is all you see. WIth the outside of the frame having a kind of flange that covers the edges of the hole in the wood on that side. So the whole focus is on not cutting too much off the inside where the fit shows. I make a template by drawing around the side of the window that will poke through the door and then cutting a hole in that and getting a good fit, then I usually use the ply as a template for the router to run around with a bearing guided bit and give a perfect hole for the frame. This window is so nearly straight on all sides I just went around with the hand saw and then sanded back a little. Lots of trial fits of which this is one. Squeezing the thing in and then taking it out to look for signs of high spots where the wood needs shaving back.
I guess the Incas did a lot of work where both sides showed, but I don't imagine they put too much work into the sides that nobody would see.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More trees

My day got turned around with rewriting for Toshiba. Not to worry. Back down in the workshop tomorrow. I decided to get the paint set out from the sawdust it was buried under and switch over to that for a while. Sammy was a bit late home today, so just painting from memory. He has his test of tree world tomorrow. 180 trees are supposed to be burned into the walls of the memory box now.
Beaten on every front, I suppose that is the role of a parent, kids taller stronger and learning more than we'll ever know. Jolly good, more power to his elbow.

Gouache on cartridge B4ish

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tree study

It seems to be one of those phases where the point is eluding me.
However, ignoring the urge not to bother, I shall push on. Sammy has end of term tests coming up. The main challenge is to be able to identify so many hundred tree species by looking at leaves and whatnot. This picture does at least convey something of the aura of study and perhaps summer attire.
Down in the shop on metal work again where I was rather more fully dressed to keep off the ultraviolet of welding, I'll put in another day on that tomorrow and see if I can get somewhere nearer to a conclusion.
It is the end of term ceremony at the local school tomorrow AM, so I am scheduled to go along to that and probably say a word or two.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Counting rings

I got back to work in the shop today, but on the way back from a short shopping spree I stopped to count the rings on the remains of that poor old tree I mentioned friday last. It turned out to be exactly the same age as me, as near as I could count. Not quite so old after all at 44, but I feel even greater affinity for it knowing we had this other thing in common. The garden of moss on the bark and the plethera of little epiphytes who have come down in the world are still thriving with all the rain we are having, but I suppose it is just a matter of time for them too.

Squiffy Artrage sketch

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Something of a day of rest, so not much mental imagery on hand. I popped in to Sammy's room looking for inspiration and ended up spending a while fiddling with his perspective transcription homework. You stick the plan of your object (a little garden here) up the top of the page and transfer points about the place by various means to find out where they will be on the perspective drawing. He has the use of a drawing board at college, so they had not explained about sliding set squares to draw parallel lines. I thought the curve on his perspective looked squiffy, so I had a go at retranscribing. Luckily I had looked all this perspective from plan stuff up in an ancient encyclopedia about ten years ago, so I was not entirely ignorant of the process. I think he had got his lines for the top of a little wall confused with the ones for the bottom. Just imagine if you could do that with the real world, all sorts of stuff would get turned inside out like living in an Escher drawing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Counter work

This is a shot from today's job site. I already had the counter top done, but the rest of the dark stuff here was done over the weekend, mostly Sunday. The carpenter said he would fit the mock beam thing as it makes it easier for them if they leave it till the plaster board is on, then they don't have to cut out any weird shapes to fit round it. So it is just up temporarily for position.The right side of the counter area will have a little hand wash basin and there will be some shelves in both bays and on the walls opposite. it should be a nice little corner when it is done. I will get the doors for the little cabinet area done once I have the door metal work completed. I took along five other little counter tops as well, which are to be fitted later, and I popped the window frame from the other day into the hole provided.

It turned out that my post lunch doubts of yesterday were correct, but the problem was fairly easily resolved and it worked out for the best in the end. The blackening on the lower parts of the structural pillars is a coating of charcoal as a protection against damp and insect damage.
We were not affected at all by the earthquake on the opposite coast, I hope those who were hit get themselves safely sorted soon.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


That was a long day down in the shop making a load of stuff to fit tomorrow. Thanks to a sterling effort from the kids in the last hour, scorching and wire brushing all the bits, I was able to get done around 8ish instead of having to work on till later. Scorching at the back, wire brushing mid fore and self brushing on finish on the right.
Let's hope I didn't mess up too much with the measurements there always seems to be something that isn't quite according to the plans. I had a moment of doubt when I went back down after lunch thinking I was going to have to redo everything, but it turned out I was measuring from the wrong end or something. Another hard day tomorrow fitting it all I imagine. Still, it looks like the storm has passed with very little wind, just lots of rain.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


We are getting heavy rain and the forecast is for a typhoon to pass right over us, so I put on my rainwear and boots and popped out earlier to tie stuff down. I have a fair bit of material stacked up around the house, so I have a couple of hooks in the walls, rope around the timber and pull it tight with one of those truck hitching knots called a "nankin" here. Presumably because it originated in the city of Nanking in china. It is a useful knot to have in your sock drawer. We don't usually get much of the wind down in the valley, but if we are unlucky with the direction there is a wind tunnel effect that can cause a bit of a rumpus. By lucky chance I have my stack of stuff on the lee side of the house from that, but the shelter I built for the press and whatnot last summer faces straight into it, so it will be interesting to see if it is still there after the storm has passed.

Friday, July 13, 2007


This old moss covered whale of a mulberry tree was one of my favorites in the locality, but alas someone decided to cut it down today. The picture only shows the horizontal part of the trunk where it peeks out from the sea of undergrowth. I am not sure how old it was, I'll pop up and check tomorrow, but it was about two foot thick at the base I suppose. The reasoning for its destruction was to improve the view, but in my opinion the tree was the view. I tried a few polite objections when I found out the plan this morning, but they were not to be disuaded and prayers for rain were left unheeded. The tree has grown up on a slope and as it tilted over into the chasm the main trunk has been left horizontal while the canopy remains upright, so there must be some nice wavy grain in there. I prefered it snaking its way through the undergrowth and I will miss it.
It is ironic that the landlord would not let them cut down any of the two a penny cedar trees that are so abundantly over planted that they have no ecological or economic value. They really do obscure the view and would be better replaced with something else.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cutting corners

I spent the day on fiddly bits for the window. I needed to make some retaining strips for the window in its frame. Because of the curves I was hoping for a flexible metal solution, but nothing seemed to be exactly right, so I shaped up some curved strips to fit all round. The trickiest bits were the corners, with the grain running in the best orientation possible. Tricky in the shop, so even trickier and more time consuming on site, so worth getting out of the way. The shaping is easy enough with the bandsaw and the little belt sander. It doesn't really matter how small the part is, it takes just about as long to make. Rain every day here, and a typhoon on its way up. Also a couple of jolts from an earthquake last night.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Having made my earnest comment about drawing, today I am worked to the bone, so falling back on digi cammy. In some ways perhaps the mixture of images is better as they tend to make some sense of each other. If you let yourself float gently up toward the ceiling you will have something of the aspect of yesterdays sketch with the saw. I spent the day on counters again and now have the many and several stacked outside ready for their journey to the mystic portal.
The white bits of wood stacked in the window frame laid horizontal will be the window in the sketch back on March 24 when I also appear to have been a little fatigued. I had intended to get them in today, but when I found it would need setting up the router table I left off and went back to the more pressing job of counter making. I will get back to it tomorrow. Anyway, the main rails and stiles are fitted, so the rest is just filling in. The orange plastic crates are for soy sauce bottles, so just a hint of the orient.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sawing Windows

Our dog seems to have some kind of health issues, he woke me up on the hour every hour last night to pop outside. I hope he will be a bit less of a stickler for clock watching tonight. Anyway, I have to take particular care with all the heavy machinery operating when I haven't had my regular kip.
Trying hard to catch up in the shop today and making a lot of headway. The door is also out of traction now, so I had a bit more space. I have another little unit clamped up down there now. A kind of country counter for a washbasin, which I must get finished pronto once the glue has set. The sawing here was the last job of the day getting a little window made up for the frame I made back on may 23rd. The frame has to go in, so I need to get the window cut to size before it dissapears, then I can take my time a bit over the glass and whatnot.
Drawing wise, I am trying to get back to doing something rather than leave it to the digi cammy. I heard my first cicadas of the year today singing out in the rain. Them not me.
Chalks on cartridge B4

Monday, July 09, 2007

Floor work

No great shakes, but it sums up the mood down in the shop for my little session this afternoon. Still bogged down with translation, which is on the agenda until late again this evening. With the door in traction taking up space and walling off the middle of the room I am scrabbling about down on the floor chopping up timber to size for some other things that need to be done this week. Here I thought it looked more like measuring from plans, which is all part of the chopping up. No good chopping if you don't know where to snip. I never was much good at numbers, but once I know where I am I can count. 1mm is 5cm in plan world, so it is a good job my eyes are still OK.
Compressed charcoal and chalk on cartridge 37x53cm

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Door Glue Up

I took advantage of the Sunday holiday to get both the kids helping out with the glue up for the door. Even so I think it was a good two hours till we got all the clamps on and the squeeze out wiped off. It really was a lot of joints to get done in a short time, but the extra clamps I got recently helped out a lot. Fingers crossed for a few days while it cures. I have a few other jobs to get done while it is sitting, but only one that needs glueing I think. I hope to get back to more solid drawing next week.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Visiting armies

Visitors on the doorstep. As is know by one and all, shoes are shed at the door in Japan. I don't think I have freakishly small feet at about a size 8, but the young gentleman visitor's footwear makes it look as if I must. David and whatsname for those with an interest in feet.
Some time later in the day I was amazed to see the chap squeeze his toes into my little pair of plastic sandals for a little stroll down to my workshop stopping for some nature observation of the tree frogs lurking above the pond. I am in the process of swapping over systems, so all in bits and pieces. We also imbibed more than is my custom, so this will be a short entry for a change. Back to work tomorrow.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I have a friend round to stay for the evening, so a little distracted chatting about this and that. The hollihocks are out again this year, but this is an old artrage sketch. I think it must be the same plant flowering outside now, but the tree growing next to it (not shown here) has grown taller in the mean time. It is one of those with composite leaves with many tiny leaflets and at night they close up to protect themselves like little praying hands.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bamboo shoots

Out on the morning walk, one of our nearest neighbors having just scrabbled up onto the road from the bamboo covered slopes with her trophy of a few seasonal shoots. No longer able to straighten up whenthe work is done, I think she was debating over whether to leave half and come back for them later, but decided to carry on home. It seems somehow very brave to be out and about doing this sort of gathering when hospital visits are an established part of the octagenarian weekly schedule. A lot of grown up kids don't stand for their parents doing it. I can imagine she would rather snuff it than call out for help if she did get in trouble and no doubt these little elements of risk add a touch of pepper to her days as they pass. She gave a little chuckle when she noticed that she had been spotted poaching. These shoots are a smaller variety than those earlier in the year and they can be eaten a bit later into their development, even when they have a hint of green some people say.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

House model

We all seemed to be up late yesterday working on all sorts. My daughter was glueing up this model of her current project, which she took off to college in the rain. She's often not to keen on my ideas, but she let me take a picture of a bit of it with the fisheye lens. These pictures give a more spacial feel with tiny models. Hopefully she will see the difference even with no real attempt at lighting or even a tripod. Each time the evaluation comes around it seems like everyone puts everything up on the submission day and then works till late and goes in the next day and sneaks in some changes or additions before the tutors come round to do their summing up. It sounds like she will be up late again today making a bath and toilet for the model and redoing some printing. I am really glad we got one of those continuous ink supply units or we would be out on the streets begging for money to buy ink for the A3 printer, which is her new best friend. If I am still sofa bound with the computer again all day tomorrow and I have nothing better to contribute I will pop in a picture of that, as I think it has already paid for itself a few times over.
Congratulations to Alan Johnston and all involved. More of the same is what we need.
That thing of sitting straight down to breakfast seemed particularly human. Isn't it nice not to have Tony on the tubes.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


My main activity today was getting the truck emptied of all the stuff from yesterday. So, no progress on other work. It is slightly melancholy to have all the stuff made for the restaurant back here. Interesting in some ways to see how my work methods have changed.
Today I also got my first cucumber off one of the three plants in the field, sliced into salad for lunch. In Japan cucumbers are a lot smaller than the full blown things I remember from the salads of my youth in blighty. Here they don't ever go much past 25cm or so long and about 2.5 cm in diameter. There were quite a few up and coming on the vine as well as lots of flowers. I have them growing up some steel mesh I bought to reinforce concrete but didn't get round to using.
I also noticed that something had dug up one of my late calla lillies, but just left it neatly by the hole without even knocking many of the roots off. The diggings were pretty small, so I am guessing it was a palm civet or a badger. Lot's of fireflies out this evening, as well as a healthy chorus of tree frogs.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Firefly season

An action packed day ripping out stuff from the restaurant I made some windows and other objects for. Their 13 years in business ended last saturday.
We stopped the truck just down the valley on the way home and saw about twenty or so fireflies at one spot. This one was having a break just perched on our insect screen. Up until now we have only really seen them in twos and threes, so something has happened to increase their population this year.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

New Project

A big no no with ironwork, computer lounging instead. It seemed like a Sunday rest really, but paid work nonetheless. I just poped up and did a quick Artrage squiggle of my daughter digging in to a new project on her architecture course. Nothing like her, as usual, but at least it gives an idea of the studious mood. I had to get the computer work out of the way ready for another savage day of destruction tomorrow. The restaurant that has been home to one of my works for some years has apparently run in to financial difficulty. So tomorrow, I shall be off with sammy again to save what I can of the work I did for the place. Times are getting harder for the small businesses in the service sector.