Sunday, November 30, 2008


Doubling up on Skype sessions due to an evening meeting of the local community representatives of whom I am one. Yesterday the majority of the family attended to a little exterior management, making up more firewood and sweeping the road of leaves. We usually just chuck them down the side of the road nearest the river, but this year we bagged them and conveyed them to our field area, so we may benefit from soil improvement next season.
Today I put on some more building paper to cut out more of the breeze into the shop and then devoted the remained of the day to threading electric cable hither and thither for sockets and a light in the middle of the ceiling with accompanying switch. Back to work proper during the week, but the weekends seem best devoted to household work.

Friday, November 28, 2008

More work on the backing boards, jointing their edges, cutting grooves in them and cooking them up with the burner, etc.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Brambling innocence

I spent the morning at the saw and the planer making up some planks to form a back to the bookcase. In the early afternoon, back to school for the kids, volunteering. We had got to the tidying up stage before I thought to take a picture. Although the young uns are not disinterested I thought it best not to include any faces and teach is too blurred to recognize. One of the mini chairs is foreground left. After a well earned cup of Charlie I got back down to the shop to do some little chores on the base for the shelf unit.

Meanwhile, others in my universe seem to have used their day in a way far more open to criticism in arranging to spend it taking the lives of yet others.
And there my mind stalls, but for good grace I might be upon either of those other paths. The misguided racing around a circle of hate or collateral damage crushed in their path. Violence is one of the worst forms of communication as it can easily be interpreted in opposite ways. If there was a message behind this action it has not been addressed properly to reach me in any productive way. I feel it best to try and stick to some kind of road that runs fairly straight, then trust to luck and hope for a speedy end if one is to be crushed.
I wish for an end to the war of terror and for the concept of terrorism itself to spiral into nothingness.
Closer to home, a huge flock of Brambling flew in today, so I think we are assured of a little more white this winter. The last time I saw Brambling flocks that size the city blew its whole budget for clearing snow and gritting the roads in the first month of the year. I suppose they come further south to avoid the worst of the winter weather when their group mentality dictates it necessary. This means a longer flight back in the summer, so there is a fuzzy compromise going on. I am sure we have a group mentality too, but it has become rather disjointed and subject to manipulation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Slab chocolate

Fairly productive day on the bookcase. The ends will have raised panels, so my T square method came into play again. The plank I wanted to use for the panels was very badly warped, so I had to cut it into rough lengths with room for a couple of panels on each so that I could keep it fairly thick. Taking the warp out of the whole plank would have turned it all to shavings. The cross cuts with the rounded cutter I made a year or so ago were done first on each piece.
Then the lengthwise cuts using the same cutter, but with the fence fitted on the machine to run along the edge of the work piece. That is the stage the piece on the left is at. Then change cutters to a plain flat bottom shape to trim off the scrap from the lengthwise edges. That is the one in the middle. If you click on the picture to get a bigger version you can see the various profiles in the scrap area at the far end of the middle piece.
Then on to cut the panels to length and pop them into the tenon cutter to cut the scrap off the ends. Those two on the right have been done. Then I use hand tools like the little plane with the fence attached (resting on top) to trim back the edges to a good fit in the grooves. I got one side trimmed down to a good fit and trial assembly, but the batteries on the camera gave out.
This view is looking in exactly the opposite direction to the one in through the window on the 24th.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

T squares

Back at the work bench today. Design wise I am not sure that the subconscious had much that was useful to contribute besides telling me to start from the bottom and suggesting a concrete method from the past to use for jointing boards.
The photo may be confusing, I made up a kind of T square a while back for making cross cuts with the groove cutting machine shown here. This is normally used with a fence, but with the T square I can make cuts at any point along the board using a flat edge to reference off of. Having a square for each cutter allows one to use the cut in the cross piece to position the cut on the board by matching the edge of the divot to a line marked in the appropriate place. Being able to run the tool on either side of the guide means one only has to have one edge to run off of. You can see that there is a little divot cut on either side of the guide part of the nearest T square. I use the pony clamp to snug the guide up against the board and I also use a silicon spray to keep the base of the machine slick. The narrow cut means I have to make several passes and I am also making a stopped groove, so I finish up with a router and a chisel. The dog leg chisel is ideal for trimming off the bottom of grooves.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Frogs in the rain

The last section of wall frame and another window went in today. I shifted two of the big machines into the new space, and I will have to sort out some electrical sockets to serve the area. This is the new view through the end window down the shop. The first heavy rain for some time is falling and it has brought out a selection of amphibians still motivated to have a little romp around before they finalize their sleeping arrangements. I caught sight of a toad out of the corner of my eye the other day, it was crawling into one of the filing cabinets I use to store all sorts. I tend to take drawer loads of stuff out on loan around the shop and he popped into the space where one such drawer was missing nearest the floor. I must remember to chase him out of there before it gets too cold for him to find a more solubrious spot.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A small translation in the morning, a rarity in these days of financial crunchiness. Then in the remainder of the day the other frame went in and I scorched them up and painted on preservative, then cut the glass to size and gave it a bit of a wash. Sammy got the remainder of the blocks laid in the section of retaining wall we are working on.
The weather has begun to turn a lot chillier, so cutting out some of the wind will be appreciated once it is done.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


All went well with the transport of sculptures and we did a bit of shopping on the way home. We were also able to do a little firewood duty having shifted the stack of timber out of the way yesterday. I had the rickety workman bench to rest the wood on to be cut with the circular saw. The wood then fell into a length of the plastic chute we usually use for the concrete and slid down to Sammy who then scooped it up and stacked it. We had a few stray bits at first that needed to be shown the way, but in the end the system worked pretty well.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A long day hauling timber around the homestead and then putting some of it to use in the window frames. Sammy put in another row of blocks too. We are off to pick up the sculptures from the exhibition tomorrow.
This is looking straight down into the area where we drop stuff over the guard rail by the road above the house. The blue shed that has featured before is on the left. We shifted the stack laid out in the center here down in front of the shop. Still a lot of odds and sods to be sorted out standing along the wall. It seemed easiest to use up some of the stuff rather than stack it, so the wall and windows were just the place for it.
The guard rail tends to grate on heavy timber as it goes over, so I put a piece of black plastic pipe over it to help the big ones slip over the rail without complaint.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bright out

I decided to use the branches I had kept back for the chair making at the school today. It took a few trips up the steps to the road to get them all on the truck. I spent about half an hour on a little model chair about six inches high to give the kids an idea of what the joints would look like. As usual when I do that kind of thing the natural flow seems to be for them to copy the thing and that was what happened today also, even though I stress that I would rather that they didn't. It is a shame we don't have time to give them a chance to make something of their own based on what they learn.
It was another beautiful autumn day, out walking the pup in the morning I was struck by the contrast of the yellow Gingko leaves and the blue sky as I observed the diurnal moon still in an almost perfect half, but upright as befits the daytime. Also by the sharpness of my shadow traversing the ground as it tracked me during the various pursuits of the day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


My subconscious told me it needed some time to discuss the shelf plan in committee. As I am not a member of the board there I got on with the framing for the walls in the shop area under construction. I put in four sections leaving rough openings for large windows imagining a standard frame size for a couple of large sheets of glass, one of which is making the reflections at the far end. I'll make up the frames next time I find myself excluded from the decision making process, but hopefully the committee will get back to me shortly. Volunteer work at the school again tomorrow, I believe we are scheduled to make some chairs on two consecutive Thursdays.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


More work on the shelving and a little go at mixing cement and laying breeze blocks for Sammy.
I don't remember seeing the moon lying on it's side much during the half of my life that I lived in the UK, but it seems to be napping regularly here in Japan and looked splendid this evening split almost exactly in half.
We used to mix cement at the side of the road when I was a kid, making up a mountain of sand mixing it dry with the cement and then making a crater in the middle to fill with water before mixing it wet. You could tell who was doing work on their house by the big limey patches on the road outside. Here we use a plastic or metal trough kind of thing (called a fune, which is the same word as for boat) and a nifty tool like a very light hoe for mixing and scooping the gloop into buckets. It is a lot easier to use than a shovel and doesn't cause anywhere near as much agro for the lower spine, so I really ought to find out what it is called.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Planing and jointing some parts for the shelves, still some areas of doubt in the plan particularly around the base area, so making up parts that should fit all my possible variants. Back to beautiful clear skies again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The rain arrived as promised and forced a lot of the dithering leaves into accepting their fate to flop down from their perches. Those of the disposable solar panels blessed with greater sense had taken the fine weather during the week as their moment to fall with style allowing their delicate motion to contribute to the autumn beauty we have been enjoying.
I spent the day smashing things, chopping things up and burning trash in the form of wood plane shavings etc. I don't burn plastic or anything measley around the home as I think it might stink out the neighbors. They certainly make a stink up the way every now and again when things are allowed to smolder. Stuffing the stove is part of the daily routine again and there is certainly plenty of stuff to go in it.
Just yesterday evening the local fire engine was out on patrol with a loudspeaker warning us how dry things are and to take care to avoid starting forest fires, but today even the brightest stray spark would stand no chance in the damp drizzle that has taken over from mellow fruitfulness.
I am getting close to needing a trip to the scrap yard to get rid of metal scraps. I abandoned welder machine maintenance and just used the oxyacetylene torch to cut the oil can into shape. I gave it to the chap up the road for his rubbish burning endeavors, I hope he uses it wisely. He came down later with a packet of biscuits and a can of beer in return. I sampled both at the appropriate points during lunch.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grey day

Kind of a fuzzy day with rain promised for tomorrow. I got the remainder of the planks left standing laid out horizontal and under blue sheets to keep the rain off. Sammy helped with that as they were a bit too heavy to control in their descent from vertical.
After that I moved on to tidying up, but immediately got side tracked into investigating the cause of the poor functionality of my plasma cutter. I only wanted to cut the top off of an oil can to give to someone local to burn rubbish. As I was in the middle of fiddling with the spark gap in the interior of the machine Sammy came down to see if there was anything to be done. I set him on preparing the area for the remainder of the block wall section to go in. By the time he had got that done it was also time for lunch. Each time he does some work things crop up that are purely practical and remind me how much one needs experience in all these things. He has a little experience of this and that, but still often gets stymied by little issues. I hope he will persevere in the realization that everybody who is working today also started out at zero.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I got back to the shop based work today jointing up a couple of boards to make a wider bottom shelf. I also sharpened up the spare planer knives and fitted them. I had made the mistake of assuming old vegetable oil was the same as the fossil based variety, but it isn't. The rags I had wrapped the blades in had turned to a sticky mass that had also attracted moisture and therefore rust, so I will not be using that again. I suppose there must be some kind of refinement that needs to be performed on the stuff before it can be compared to the geological extract.
I hadn't really appreciated the difference in efficiency when burning well dried wood. I had thought the skimpy sticks would disappear in no time, but because they are so dry we can shut up the main vent almost completely and things just smolder away happily for several hours. I keep the window vent open. That allows a curtain of cold air to drop down over the glass and keeps it pretty clean with anything half way dry burning.
Points of interest among the chaos. The planer with its ducting removed and lid open for surgery. The board in clamps in the foreground. The general sense of more airiness down the other end of the shop, which I hope to keep through the addition of some large windows. It is pretty breezy down there as the evening draws in, so I am trying to get little bits of work done on walls and such in between other stuff. The tiny bit of studding I put in over the glass doors the other day is one such.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I had to do a little addition to the table I delivered last week. It is about an hour away from home. Much of the route lies along the river that flows down from the reservoir near our house.
More views of stooked rice stalks and the industrial hinterland there and back again. The road itself is small, but very direct, so a larger road with a variety of overpasses is being built alongside it. I think the economy of Japan is just as reliant on its infrustructure expenditure as that of America is on its miliary industrial nightmare, but on the whole I prefer the men in white helmets and baggy pants here to those clad in kevlar who could be doing something more productive. The road used to be a regular dumping paradise for fly tippers, but these days it is either being cleaned up more regularly or the recent commodity price peak gave the rubbish a commercial value worth exploiting. Whatever the combination of circumstances there is a lot less trash.
I popped in at the wood yard on the way back to get more value out of my petrol ha'penny. I filled the truck with this stack of 2 meter long firewood scraps. They were offering squared up stuff, but I turned it down as I knew I would be tempted to keep it for use and I don't have room. Even a lot of this stuff looks useful, but I am able to turn a blind eye as the weather gets chillier.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trip two

I mentioned the wood yard scenario to the chap down the road who is planning to build his own house and we went along there today. He got a load of stuff that looked pretty useful to me and broached the subject of buying a few bundles of timber for pillars, which looked like a bargain. This time around there were a load of planks that had emerged from under the junk around the big saw, so I latched on there. I suppose I could have got away without paying again, but I dropped a 10,000 yen note in the kitty as there were a couple of planks that looked like they were worth at least that on their own. The largest were only pine, but I quite like anything that has an attractive grain pattern.
It is a bit hairy unloading these big things on my own. Most are just about stoppable, but there are a few, which must be left to their own devices once they have Isac newton on their tail. I tuck knees in tight against the guard rail and hook my toes over the top of the wall to get a good grip and avoid getting sucked over the rail with them. The edge of the truck makes a nice rail to find a balance point, then if the wood is light I slide it down on to the guard rail and keep a sliding grip on it all the way down. With the heavy stuff I just try and steer it a bit as it touches the guard rail and begins to slide into the void.
I was done by about oneish, so the early start paid off.
I popped the truck back after lunch and ended the day with a bit of work on the shop and preparations for a trip to make an adjustment to the table delivered last week.
The weirdest bit of these excursions is getting back in the little truck to drive off after a day driving the big one. It is odd to find oneself so huge in a tiny space with a tiny little steering wheel. The stupidest notion today was thinking, "Where is the bloody light truck gone" when I got home with the load of timber. It took me a moment to figure through to the point where I remembered I had left it at the yard where I picked up the big truck. You can see that my mental energies are on the brink here, so it is not surprising that the mental margarine for blogging is getting spread a bit thin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I thought it would only take a morning to cut up the dross and bundle the good stuff from yesterday's trip, but in the end I was at it most of the day. I will be back at the yard again on Wednesday, so I wanted to get things clear enough for another load to come in. I think the extra time went because I was trimming some of the stuff down to a width suitable for wall timbers, I had my little guide on the circular saw and had a fairly pleasant time listening to "This American Life" as I worked. It was the episode called "Who do you think you are", which is the current one I believe. Part of it was people talking about their memories of the great depression, which was interesting, especially as many of the people sounded quite young as their voices had failed to age.
Inevitably some of the sorted wood ends up being gassified in our chubby stove to rejoin the carbon cycle. I didn't do much in the way of maintenance on the chap, but he is putting in good service already this season. With well dried conifers I have to keep the vent closed up pretty tight or they disappear in a jiffy. Here they are rendering down with a healthy glow.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Sunday got left behind. Sammy and I made an effort to clear away a lot of wood to make way for new stuff that has now been dumped in its place after a trip to the wood yard today. On Sunday I got out there first and cut things up with the chainsaw then Sammy went out and chopped a lot and stacked up the resulting billets.
I borrowed a dump truck to carry the timber and just got done with the unloading in time to get the truck back to its home as it was getting dark. Not much timber for artistic work, but a lot suitable for shoring up the homestead and putting some walls in that end bit of the shop. Generally the timber is around 4m long, just over 12 feet. It stacks nicely against the stone wall below the road.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Spiral of the present

Back to whitling away at wood for materials as well as working on some translation related stuff. Sammy was down in the shop for a while making up a little necklace as a present for the birthday girl of last weekend. It was kind of fun working out how to position everything in a left handed manner for him with the torch the hammer and the anvil all the "wrong" way round. It is easy to say, just hammer in the same place and move the hot metal back and forth adjusting the power of the blows like this. But the reality requires a lot of getting used to. The good thing is that once you have learned to do something like swing a hammer it can be applied in so many other processes of great merit for the budding object maker. There is a spiral of information as the "object" you have envisioned in your imagination takes a form in reality and then your mind responds to that in its turn creating a kind of circuitous dialog. That seems to be the point in all these activities where things stand or fall. If the process grabs you sufficiently, your hand-eye coordination improves to a point where you can do something to entice your internal vision to see a little further and you have yourself a pleasant time as the two types of vision encourage each other. Anyway a lot of these processes are enjoyable in themselves, so if none of that happens you still get to play with fire and whatnot. If even the process isn't fun, there may be some other happy purpose for which you are intended and it might be best to move on in search of it.
Sammy practiced reducing the metal rod section, twisting the hot metal, bending it to shape, then finally did a little silver solder application on the copper ring.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Table Insertion

There was a little additional job to tackle with the introduction of the table to its new habitat. The machine for blowing heat under it fitted nicely in the hole I had left for it and all the little bolts worked well. The small table I delivered along with the chairs a few months back had contracted a lot in the dry atmosphere and that had made it a little wobbly. I tightened that up and got it sitting properly again.
On the way back home I made several stops to research prices and whatnot but only made very modest purchases. One stop was a t the wood yard where they were tidying up, so I will go back on Monday and see if there is anything I can do to help by taking stuff home with me.
There were some lovely autumn images by the roadside on my journey home. I had to force my mind into remembering the English word for the bundles of rice stalks left standing to dry in the fields. It took a moment and then the stooks got their name. I wonder if they still have stooks anywhere in the UK. They were backlit and just needed some kind of human presence to make them more definitely a part of a much earlier century.
As I got very near home at around half past four a car slowed to a stop in front of me and I was about to allow my agitation to surface at this poor adherence to the highway code when I saw what had stopped it. There were two wild boar sauntering out of a little market garden in the evening sun. They slowed their saunter and then halted to look up at us with a somewhat quizzical air as if to ask why we had stopped, they simply wanted to get across the road and we were rather rudely blocking the way and compounding the rudeness by staring.
These animals definitely seem to be losing their nocturnal habits.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hineri kanamono

I had planned to take the table today, but there was a lump of translation work that needed attention and I had forgotten about the brackets for fitting the heater under the table, so finished off the day by making them. I was going to cut out strips of steel and then bend, drill and thread them, but I remembered I had some scrappy old fittings that would serve if flattened and bent. I also bent them to match and existing hole, so I eliminated a few steps in fabrication. The fittings were twisted metal straps for tying down rafters (Japanese name as in the title), I remember seeing them spoken of kindly in a video about midwestern construction, the roof without them had flown off into the sunset, but the one with had held on to see further service.
It was not pleasant to see my optimism about the change in America rewarded by Russian missile phobia today. I suppose that was the most important thing on the agenda for them on this day and the reality of the Bush era is still out there.
The sketch is from matching up the line marking the position of the bend in the little strip in the vice. I have clearer memories of this vice in the workshop of a friend where it used to live than I do of it here at home, so it is currently enjoying some kind of quantum presence in my world. I do have it in my head as part of my kit, so I turn to it for help when needed, but it also exists in memory somewhere else. Simple sketches are really not sufficient to cover all the complexities of time and space we encounter daily.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Slightly dumb I guess, but I am really happy about the election result. I did not get much done today. I kept breaking off to listen to results and speeches. I wasn't one of those huddling around a radio to listen to Mr Obama's speech, but if huddling around a PC on a Wifi connection in the workshop counts I was certainly engaged with everyone else on this planet who is hopeful that the man just elected as president is a real human being.
This morning when there was still a danger of more of the same I got a tremendous sense that time is slipping by even for my kids. Another four years of the same would make my youngest 24 and that thought was making me very sad. I wish things could have been different for Mr M, he would have been the perfect vice president if he had changed parties. It was sad to hear him let down by his supporters booing whenever Mr O was mentioned, especially since he also seemed to have become human for the evening.
Anyhow, I feel an immense sense of hope that there is now a chance for something to change among our species and I truly hope we will take it. My hope is that we will hurry up and do it while we still have the luxury of fossil fuel.
To celebrate this time of hope I went out this evening to buy some treats for our meal tonight and timed it just right to inconspicuously follow around the man putting half price stickers on stuff at the supermarket. We also went to buy heating oil and I saw this reindeer on sale for a fiver. I am afraid he will soon be recycled, but his lights will live on and be much appreciated illuminating the way up our steps once they are attached to a sensor switch.
The other luxury was the bottle of bubbly he is sniffing, as well as some icecream that was also on sale. It was gratifying to find my hope rewarded by blessings from the gods of consumerism who help those that help themselves.
My toast this evening will be for a long and happy life of service to Mr Obama and for fate to twist the ankles of all those that desire to hinder or harm him in anything good he undertakes. Health and happiness to all.
When I told Sammy there was a reindeer on sale for a fiver in the shop he thought I meant a real one, like they were pet rabbits on special offer. Anyway, it seems that he is interested in reindeer farming and thought that by some weird coincidence it was to become a reality. What a great kid he is to be sure.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Plane plan

Just a bit of messing about. I bought a thickness planer that feeds timber through automatically and also has a jointer on the side. The problem with these little machines is that they throw out a hell of a lot of shavings. Not so much the jointer, but the thickness planer makes mountains.
They are also a little bit low and play murder with the lower regions after a heavy session. I wanted to build a stand to raise the height of the machine a bit and then I inherited a blower from a chap down the road who had some kind of clothes making business at one point. That coincidence made me want to house the blower and a drawer to hold shavings under the machine in the stand. It took me a while to build up the momentum to build it, but these days I reap the reward. I made the mistake of having the outflow of air and the intake for shavings on opposite sides of the box at first because I thought that would work best. I had to cover up that hole (A in the drawing) and now it just serves as a little window to check on shaving build up. Actually the out take for air needs to be right around the intake, the shavings come storming in looking for the way out but it is hiding behind the door they came in through so they don't find it easily and eventually run out of energy to sit in the drawer and await their fate. Utterly confusing trying to draw the gubbins even now that it is made. The Photo below shows pieces of timber in the machine with their direction of motion and the flow of air. Also a close up of the mesh in the drawer to stop the shavings, etc.
I am on to planing timber for the next project, a small book case. Hence this little entry.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Half Block

Splitting the day again with work on the house and tidying up some of the general carnage around the home. I was offered a load of blocks at one of the many sites I seem to frequent (part of the haul back on Feb 21st 2007) and they are going to be put to service in a little addition to a retaining wall under our kitchen. I wanted to put in a piece of cypress on top of the foundation wall next to the door and had to mix up a bit of cement to get that to level. I decided I might as well make a job of it and put in the first row of blocks under the kitchen too. Only three and a half to go in each row, so here I am cutting one in half with the grinder and a diamond disk. Still pottering about in my sandals, but we will soon be past that. There are still crickets calling faintly in the evenings and I encounter the occasional toad searching for a suitable spot to jell out for the winter.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pengu 2008

We often meet up with Granny and my brother in law when there is a birthday. We went to a tiny restaurant in Ochanomizu today to raise a glass in honor of of Mrs P. This is the piece of pallet wood I was fiddling during the week. The sap wood color difference is not visible, but the shape and size are easy enough to discern. It has quite a jolly shape. As I was trimming off bits on the bandsaw I found the square end with the tail drawn on suggested feet stuck out to keep balance after jumping in the water, so I tried to accentuate that a little. Perhaps an object that invites itself to be picked up and played with while one is talking on the phone.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

After and before

The clocks have changed in the UK now, so my skype session is slightly later in the day. Not feeling particularly sprightly today, so not much physical activity. I spent an hour or so disassembling an old propane water heater I got it from a renovation job. In the end we never used it because propane is too expensive here to make it viable. I discovered that it had rusted itself a huge hole in one of the gas pipes anyway, so only useful for parts. I was working on the floor in the new space shown in the top photo and later came across the bottom photo of the same space back in the spring. I think there are sufficient reference points to tell what the changes have been. The big pale pillar and the holes in the corner pillar should allow you to orient your vision. I quite like having these little construction projects on the back burner with each little effort making new space or more convenience. I was hoping to get a little porch area outside the doors done with the recent batch of concrete, but it didn't spread that far. Looking at how the shuttering spread out under the load I think I could probably have done it if I had made that work a little more sturdy.