Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Back on home turf after a rather delay bound flight schedule. We had a very long session playing the part of sea anemones anchored to comfort chairs at Schiphol airport. The last little flight was some compensation as the combination of moonlight on the little patches of urban landscape gave the impression of colonies of single celled phosphorescent creatures covering the floor of a pristine ocean. There was one poetic moment where one of the lights separated off from a larger colony and moved smoothly over to a lesser grouping of three or four lights. A car heading home to a little hamlet.
I was pleased to find that the snow in Holland had not spread as far west as my destination and today we enjoyed a pleasant stroll out with family in the breezy spring air

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Test Card

Busy with preparations for the trip to blighty, so I am afraid transmission will be intermittent or zero for a bit while we are in transit. I will try and get something going again when we arrive. Here is a familiar face from my youth whenever the BBC went on the blink or hadn't woken up yet.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


We had a bit of a swap over yesterday, Sammy wanted to make a lid for a little box he started ages ago (on the right here). While he was doing that I made up two blank shapes with lids that I was hoping to get finished today, but Sammy's efforts on the sander took longer than expected and I didn't get on to the sander till it was dark. I'll give it another go early tomorrow morning before I have to get on with packing my suitcase.

Friday, March 21, 2008


You will have to forgive me if my posting behavior becomes a little irregular. I am apparently in one of those periods where external influences must have their say, like when that asteroid hit the earth and put paid to the dinosaurs.
Not quite so severe perhaps, but as I was diligently working away downstairs an acquaintance called up and asked Mrs P if I would come out for a drink. Herself having agreed to my absence I went.
Now, I am fairly full of jollity and incapable of visual imagery.
The said acquaintance was a gentleman who I served on the PTA with some years ago.
His subsequent service in many voluntary roles was apparently due to seeing me help out putting up a tent as part of a school sports day activity. I suppose I do stand out a bit here as a person of foreign persuasion and he began to ask himself what I was doing there and who I was. Personally I think I would have left it there, but he signed up for the PTA then and there and we later served as vice presidents of the institute together. He had been at the graduation ceremony earlier in the day in one of his volunteer roles and had hooked on that chance meeting as an opening for a call to the bar side.
After our long chat of this and that I am ready for bed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Three pair

These all the same chair. Top right I was fiddling with arrangements before and quite liked the idea of echoing the three back spars with three underneath, so having got all my front and back rungs jointed in on the three other chairs done (stacked without their backs on and around the planer) I went back to this one and tried laying out three bits with joints and then drilled them in as seen in the other two shots. This chair just needs a lot of sanding and shaping and then it will be ready for finishing. For now everything is still really blocky, but I can see some lines emerging.
Lots of other stuff going on and the primary school graduation ceremony tomorrow, so I will lose a morning there. Terrible weather, I hope they get a reprieve tomorrow, I have never heard of a rainy graduation day, but I suppose they must happen. I don't think I am to be called upon for public speaking on this occasion, but you never know where the axe will fall.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pre Blighty

It is just beginning to dawn on me that I shall be back in blighty in less than a week, and while there, the young gentleman will be guarding the homestead, so I must make do with cyber contact with my son for the duration of the trip. If you have been following the jist of these posts for a while at some point there will have been reference to the evening piano sessions that we enjoy separately, the downcast eyes and trance like poise are indicative of Sammy at the piano.
I can not claim to have his dexterity, but nevertheless I am keen to take my turn next.
The wonderful compensation is meeting all kinds of loved ones who are normally in cyber world and also spending a solid wadge of time with the young lady of the house who is of course my favorite young female person on the planet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rock breaking

I didn't manage a complete switch over to the chairs with Sammy down the end of the shop working on breaking up the rubble from the old foundations to go in as hardcore under the floor. He was using an electric hammer drill to split up big blocks and then a normal little sledge hammer to break them down some more.
We did a bit more figuring to get a bit of shuttering down the side of the floor area to level off the hardcore to.
I was having a quick ponder over leg length, I didn't want to cut things off too short, but I think if I make the chairs to suit my height and leave enough room between the rungs across the front and the floor I should be fine. I just put blocks under my feet while sitting to test for heights before cutting off the stumps.
It looks like we have enough chute lengths to get our concrete down the slope when the time comes.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I had one more day on the construction work before hopefully returning to the chairs tomorrow. I finished off making up the pillars to replace the ones we took out and put a bit of copper on their bases, then got them in place hovering over the foundation shuttering. In the afternoon Sammy mixed up a bit of concrete and we shoveled that in to finish off. We didn't do a whole length, just some blocks under the pillars. There are reinforcing rods in it, so the whole lot should tie in when we lay the floor. I made a few blocks to make a nice end that I can pull out once things have set a bit.
We also sorted out all the bits of chute I had used before to run concrete down from the road under the house when laying the floor of the shop. we are going to need about forty foot of that to get concrete down from the road. The days are getting longer and more gets done. My eye is still a slightly unfamiliar shape, but working fine and well on the way to mending. In fact Sammy's eyes look rather worse as he is suffering from the cedar pollen explosion. It sometimes happens that hikers report forest fires thinking the huge clouds of pollen to be smoke, we had four fire engines and an ambulance shoot up the road today, so I thought some such thing had happened. Then three more went up and stopped just above the house, so we went up to check what was up. A hiker had come a cropper and had been helicoptered off the mountain, so they had come all the way for nothing.
I did keep those specs on all day, and I shall try to stick to that rule.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bamboo hazard

I had red frogs yesterday, today red eyes, so no picture. I had one of those odd occurrences today while bending over to measure up from the base of a set of doors I didn't notice a stick of bamboo that had sprouted up and got it smack in the eyeball. I had thought I was just messing about measuring, so no safety glasses. I shall make a point of putting them on whatever I am up to in future. I don't think any horses have left the stable permanently, so there is some point in bolting the door. The orb is exceedingly displeased and I can feel a good part of the body's nervous energy focusing on mending it up, still functioning properly but very tender and not happy about having to roam about in its shell as the right one keeps on working looking at translation work.
Even with a blunt stick a poke in the eye isn't fun. I had a similar incident a few months back with a stick of firewood springing out at me, what a shame I didn't learn my lesson then. Having just had an eye check up on Thursday it would be too ironical to be going back for emergency treatment having got the all clear.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Aka gaeru

Another of Sammy's pictures today. The red frogs (Aka gaeru) were chirpy again and they are beginning to seem more in season as the weather warms up. There are also big gangs of brambling about in the mornings, probably on their way back to Siberia or some such. They sit up in the cedar trees snacking and toweling off after their morning bathe, their holidaymaker chatter livens things up.
Sammy and I had a day on chain gang type work smashing up rubble for the floor of the diggings at the end of the shop. I also searched out two pieces of timber suitable for pillars to replace what we have taken out. We measured the heights of the floor beams we have supported with struts and found one of them must have dropped before we wedged it, so we jacked that up to around level with its buddies and then put the wedges back in under the strut. I hope to get the pillars and concrete bases in tomorrow or Monday. Then further construction will have to wait while I get back to the chairs.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cross bars

This gives a context for yesterday's squiggle. Today I had to go and get one of those 90 degree angle drilling things so that i could do the holes for the front and back cross bars that will support a web of wood under the chair and act as a foot rest. Getting to a chair like object anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Inner tubes

I only got a little bit done in the shop today as I went to have an eye check up in the afternoon.
I was having trouble getting the back of one of the chairs to cooperate and hold itself together while I marked out the remaining tenon holes. I thought of calling in sammy to give me a hand, but realized I could use elastic to hold all the bits into one piece and joined up a few sections cut from bike tire inner tube to make some suspenders to hold all the bits tight in place as a solid lump while I aligned things and made pencil marks for the hole positions. It reminded me of hearing about a Virgin train that had to stop because the wiper blade was falling off. They said they could have done a spot repair with one of those zip ties, but didn't have any. They asked among the passengers and one guy had some, but they were too short. I wondered at the time why nobody thought of joining them together. I know it is easy enough to do as I have been in the same position and used two mated together. Probably just the journalist getting the facts wrong. It was a bit like that with the elastic, I though I would have to wrap a bungee cord round it, but I remembered cutting up the tube and joined the loops of rubber together to make a chain the right length for what I needed.
All OK with the eyes, or at least anything that is wrong is just something I will have to put up with like everybody else.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Leg leveling

More dust and scraps today. I think I have all my leg blanks done now and three of the chairs have their legs cut to sit flat at the right seat angle. At the far end of the room here there is a board on the floor to give me a flat surface to rest the rough cut legs on. Then I shim the leg bottoms up to make the front of the seat level left to right and the back of the seat 3/4" (19mm) lower than the front. Once shimmed up I run a pen resting on a block around the leg to give the cut line. You can see such a line on the foot of the leg held in the vice here. This is one cut that is simplest done with a hand saw, it is a compound angle in all directions and the leg is curved. Actually there are two lines as I realized I could take off a bit more and added another cassette case to the stack I was using to rest the pen on.
I just rest the seat blank on the floor and whack the legs in down there using the heavy mallet on the bench. I have foam mats on the floor all around the bench as that is where I spend most time and for some reason the concrete floor used to give me a back ache before I bought these interlocking foam thingys. I put a little mark on the tenon at the depth of the hole it is going into so that I don't try to poke it right through the seat when it is already as far as it wants to go.
You can see two of the seat and leg sets down the end, too. Also the plywood seat mock up I mentioned yesterday for the back rest is more visible here. One more item is the plywood template for the curved leg blank profile with the tenon cut resting on a stack of four more legs poking in from the far left.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Leg jig

I realized that I had enough flat surfaces remaining on the upper side of the chair seats to do the angled leg holes on the drill press, that makes it easier even though I have to reset the table angle for each hole to reach the right spot. One of the seats was too uneven to rest properly on the table, so I did use the jig for those holes. Strangely the best drill I have is the cordless number here. It fits nicely into the little guide column jig and I made a couple of angled blocks to screw that on to. This one is for the 8 degrees on the front legs. I am too much of a wimp to use a proper bit with a screw to pull it into the wood, I am worried it would pop itself straight through the seat. I use a forstner bit instead. Those layout lines I mentioned yesterday are a bit more evident on the nearest seat blank here. Matching up a center line on the angled block makes sure the drill is tilting in the right direction.
I was getting worried that my design was not going to be comfortable, so I put one of the backs (peeping up behind the vice here) into a scrap of 1 inch plywood to try it out. It seemed like I was within the right area and a bit of shaping would give a pretty comfortable back rest.
I also had a bit of a tidy up so there is less to trip over in the shop now. And went with Sammy on what I hope will be our last trip to the stock yard for the season. It was a very mild day making it seem a bit silly to be collecting firewood, but I guess we may get a bit more chill before we reach the summer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More mess

More scenes from Tutankhamen's tomb, or at least from an equally jumbly land. I got some holes for leg fitting drilled and more bits on the go. The littlest chair on the right is now upside down on the back bench with its legs trial fitted. The legs go in and then the stretcher parts have to be cut to length and drilled in. Lots of combination angles. The seat standing up on the back bench has the little layout lines for the positions and angles of holes. Front legs at 8" and back at 18". The back leg angle is from the hole position to the center front of the chair seat and the front legs from the hole to a point at the center of a line connecting the front and back holes of the opposite side. I'll try and make a point of taking a picture of the little hole drilling jig I use for either the front of the back. The vice in another pose I use when ripping pieces off of the edge of short planks or routing the edges of things. Everything has to go through several phases of going together and coming to bits before it finally goes together for the last time with glue on.

Nature wise I noticed a strange object on the walk today, I thought it was a dead bird that had been plucked, but it was actually a goshawk frozen atop the bird it had nearly finished eating. It flew off when it realized I was staring at it. I had a good clear view of it, but only with the naked eye. A lovely blueish slate back and clear stripe above the eye.. The rain over night has cheered the frogs and they were very vocal today. They ducked into the mud sharpish when I went to have a peak, but I counted about five rippling exits at different points.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Tokyo trip

One of those strange family days today. Nobody's birthday, but we all went to the city to eat and celebrate three family birthdays coming up this month and next. Walking back to the station and in cheerful mood with full tummy I was struck by this little cameo of city living. A big day for them I suspect, but the people downstairs and us out in the street just getting on with things. The lady assisting on the left gives a hint of the local culture, but the white dress is a symbol in many I imagine.
Monkeys about again this morning and a litter of orange skins and seeds all over the place from their carry on yesterday. The beautiful mild weather must be putting them in party mood as spring loosens the grip of winter. We also had the luck of driving back over the mountains just as the sun was setting behind the range of hills that arrange themselves like all others in the area as footmen to the mighty mount Fuji. We seldom get to see the sun set or the full silhouette of the mountain, so it was a real treat, but not one I was speedy enough to capture with a camera through the car window with its covering of microscopic cedar pollen confetti.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


We had a visit from one of the local monk tribes today. They were scouting for all the remaining yuzu oranges. Basically sacks of pips now, but still some valuable vitamins to be had. There were clunking noises on the roof so I went out to investigate and a big group came running down the hill to cross over the road and dive down into the valley. I am glad they are still a little fearful of humans as the elder members of the tribe could be rather intimidating if they wanted. Mainly young animals, which means the population will be swelling further in future.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Darkness fell

Another day in the dust, or rather in my respirator helmet safe out of it. I am still hemming and hahing over the chair backs. I worked on all of them today, but more so the right two and nearly convinced myself to chop off the outer two back strut supports as they seemed a little superfluous. That would leave a sort of whales tail with a single strut. I was tempted because I quite like the flat bottom on the left two and I think I will make them in that way, so I will end up with two different styles and I though they might be better off as markedly different. The left ones will have the struts coming further back leaving a ledge rather than blending the form in to the back rail. I called in Mrs P for her opinion and she seemed to think it would be OK to have two styles of chair.
It doesn't look like a lot of change, but I did end up with a box of bandsaw scraps and a heap of dust, so I must have been doing something. I shifted on to leg parts in the afternoon in order to keep momentum and let the mind ponder it. Sorry if the picture is too shaky to tell much anyway.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Sammy didn't get down to the diggings today, he was distracted with a new computer. This picture gives a slightly better idea of the job on hand. Struts wedged up on blocks, concrete rubble from the old tank, the now floating and very wobbly foundations all on the right. The soil level change is apparent on the right too. On the left is a load of timber and sculpture stacked on a steel shelf rack, and there is also my collection of sheet glass, which I hope will remain safe. The room is about nine foot across, but looks a lot less because of the shelves, around 15 foot long as well. The more civilized area of shop space is still a bit of a blur, the room shown yesterday is right down the other end and the camera would have been pointing right to left at right angles to this shot.
I did get more done on the chair backs, and I must get on with that again tomorrow, little mental energy for much else.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Quaker nightmare

The day began with a devilish lack of conviction on all fronts, but ended slightly more competently in a storm of fairly productive dust.
The phase of chair development up to now has been rough cutting and jointing. Today I embarked on the actual shaping for one of the chairs and that was tougher than I thought. Straight lines and practicalities like tenons and mortices are known and comforting, but when those straight lines must be obliterated it is a jolt to the system. And it takes a while to get to a point where the dissolved form of the old straight and narrow reforms to something acceptable and new. The item in the vice on the left is the conglomerate of four pieces I am working on at present. The other customers are still lined up along the back awaiting their turn. I must remember to take some extra vitamins or something when these turning point days are coming around.
Sammy said something recently that seems to be related. He had been learning that when a caterpillar is in its cocoon the organs actually dissolve away completely to allow the metamorphosis into a new form to take place. This struck him as entirely amazing. It was something I had known but not contemplated properly before. What an amazing ability, something akin to sponge cells reforming into a viable conglomerate organism after being put through the blender. Anyway, that just about sums up my day.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Empire digging

Night time in the trenches. The other parts of the shop further down the burrow look bright and airy in comparison to the new diggings around us here. The old cess tank was down on the right here. We put in a couple of struts to hold things up today as the old foundations have revealed themselves to be no good at all. The temporary struts are wedged in and they will hold things up while we put in a footing and maybe some better pillars. More diagonals will have to go in to fix things in position. We also had to move one of the wood storage areas today shifting it all outside under sheets, but I did managed to get a little done on the chairs as well. I'll get Sammy to take a daytime view of things tomorrow.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Sammy saving me from picturelesness again. I think this is from a summertime walk with the dog before it got hot enough to burn the dew off this leaf. The dog is just a distant blob following its nose here.
Sammy was digging downstairs again today. I managed not to chip in too much and just let him get on with it. We are nearly there now, there is just a fragment of the old cess tank left and most of the floor is at the right level. I will have to start giving some thought to the plans for getting concrete for the floor and foundations to replace what we have taken out. I got more done on the chair joints and I may have a go at some shaping with the sander tomorrow. Sammy is already suffering with the pollen from the cedars, so I won't do too much of that if he is not keen on the dust. I will also scorch the backs a little to make sure they are not going to warp much before I joint them to the chair seats.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sam heim

Hopefully Sammy is searching for a picture from his files to pop in here. He chose one of our house when the leaves were young on the trees back in may this year. The place has more the look of a village in the woods than of a single home, many people have lived here over the years and added their own little extensions to it and we have done the same.
After a good morning on chair bits I got sidetracked again this afternoon when a friend popped round to say that a mutual friend had succumbed to the inevitable. We will not have the pleasure of meeting her again. It was kind of him to let us know. It is so easy to forget how special every meeting is and there can be no doubt that the losses we experience are here to drive that point home until we ourselves are the ones that are gone.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

From Earth to Moon again

Sammy did get a few holes drilled and split off a few lumps of concrete with the wedge and feathers. Unfortunately I got slightly distracted from the chairs today. We had lost track of the pick, I found it, but the handle was no longer worthy of its name having rotted somewhat, so I made up a replacement. I just managed to mark up and make a few more tenon cuts, so at least there was some movement forward on the chair front. Sammy is footling with the guitar now, so I had a quick go at drawing that. I also had him scribbling numbers on scraps of paper while I was waiting to log on for the skype chat. I needed to make sure my calculations of the dollar bill stack of war costs were not completely loopy. I just had a morbid desire to know how many more weeks of expenditure it would take for the mythical tower to connect us to our natural satellite. 39. 8 weeks at a building rate of 1267 km added to the stack every week if we assume the war to have been going for 260 weeks. I don't remember the date it started, but I think it was spring of 2003 as I remember I was working on a local house renovation when the president announced the thing. I would really like to know of one politician anywhere who could be trusted to give peace and hope equal funding.

By the way, having switched to metric, one million dollars weighs one metric ton, so our spindly stack of 3trillion dollars 329466 km high weighs 3million tons I think. Coincidentally the estimated weight of consumer electronic waste for the US in 2003 and the annual surplus of arable crop production in the UK. Statistics I really did not want to have in my mind, but the Internet is very convenient for finding out these little facts.