Saturday, May 31, 2008


Having trouble keeping a posting routine. Pondering that on the veranda over a cup of tea I spotted this creature up under the plastic roof. I suppose it could be demonstrating some kind of autism, but one presumes that this is a discrete species of spider evolved by natural selection. There must be some advantage it has gained through this web and posture behavior. Exactly what that advantage is I am not sure, perhaps a smug psychological stability in times of famine that allows it to survive while all others fade away in their lack of faith in the arrival of the next meal. Then again, there may be something in this cross symbol that holds some fatal attraction for particular insects. It is so easy to read a lot of twaddle into what we observe in the natural world, thank goodness for the discovery of tools like scientific method that help us avoid jumping in feet first.
I looked this one up after and found that it is a St Andrew's Cross spider. The role of the web is indeed still a mystery, but perhaps the reflection of ultraviolet light may actually be a beacon to the insect world. I suppose the name was shorter before we developed the nasty habit of showing reverence for people after first killing them.

Friday, May 30, 2008

On the bench

I was slightly more weighted with evening tasks than usual, so I had to delay posting. The first of the chairs is now up together with all its parts. I must try and get some better photographs of these when they are done. This seems like it should be OK, but I must figure out a way of clamping the back to the seat before I apply glue to that. I think I will also have to glue up the rack of rails under the seat before everything else. More polishing needed on this one, but my polishing disk has now been worn to a nubbin, so I must get a new one.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


We have had a young lady staying with us for a few days and she asked if there was something that she could make. The shop is not a pleasant atmosphere without the dust protection at present, so, we spent an hour or so on promise bracelets, their husbandry and habitat. She managed to stick with the study and gradually got speedier at tying the multiple knots it takes to make one of these little things and ended up with one fairly decent effort completed. We didn't get as far as more complex plumage patterns, chevrons and diamonds, etc, but once you have the basic technique those can be explored in ones own time. I think mine could do with a bit of ironing to straighten it out.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Modern machete

I got stuck into the process of lowering the daylight from the canopy of jungle down on to the tea bushes today. Near drowning in a horrible grabbing chaos of tangled branches and bamboo with an occasional mutant cedar mixed in. Before that I had chopped back all of the tea rows to a reasonable shape with a pair of shears. I also did a little shaping on the chairs, but to be honest I was having to move my whole torso just to lift the arms up a bit as they were tired out. It felt strangely refreshing to be dealing with simple manual chores yesterday and today, too there was a nice sense of airiness gained in the area next to the house that had been a wall of jungle.
I should have worn a hard hat, but I was saved several taps on the noggin by the head band on the ear protectors. I think I will have to give it a rest and let the muscles recover tomorrow while I go back to the craftwork.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I forgot to put my respirator on to charge yesterday, so I decided to have a day of housekeeping. Working without it in the dust would have been nasty.
The little patch of tea bushes next to the house had got completely swamped with weeds, so I went out and had a whack at them and the other wilderness area between us and the river. I mark the lilies down there with sticks before I go, so I don't whack them by accident. The rest goes. Mainly working on steep slopes, maybe this doodle conveys that, maybe not. I also felt like getting the slide for the concrete started for the incoming material for the floor downstairs. I got a stretch about 18 foot or so strung in and I will have to strengthen that a bit before I put anything down it, when these chutes fail it is not at all fun. The whacker is a frankenstinian composite of three old ones that the chap down the road gave me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Front to back

The verbiage seems to be creeping in a bit these days and there is a temptation to comment on all sorts with mars and Hillary Clinton, etc. Thankfully I am a little too tired to bother. The chair shapes are nearing their final forms, the legs are all still stacked up waiting to be reunited with the parts that give them their reason for being.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sofa bench beginnings

I went on a little visit to discuss another furniture project. This time a kind of bench or sofa for the house where this set of tables and chairs lives. The piece had been on the agenda back in March, but fell off the calendar for a while. It was worth the visit to get the various measurements and practicalities properly discussed. There is no substitute for going over these things with the client present as the smallest change of expression is an indication of a yay or nay. There are quite a few bits and bobs around the home here that I made and it was nice to see them again. Nothing wobbling or getting stuck, so no maintenance to do. It would appear that the owners get nice comments from the people who visit, which is pleasing for them. I was pleased to see that there were signs of the owners maintaining everything well, the front door looked especially dapper with stain for the Zelkova wood and oil for the iron work. I am sure these things will continue to gain more life as long as they are being used. At the moment my brain is full of getting those other chairs finished, but now it is starting to form foggy visions of this new project and maps of where the timber to make it might be found in the backwaters of my various lumber stores.
On the drive there I listened to a couple of podcasts by Stephen Fry, 1 and 3 of a series, for some reason my media player had refused to accept number 2. Very interesting and as usual a treat for the mental vocabulary muscle. I am afraid to say the word crap appeared at one point in number 3, but it was purely medicinal and entirely justifiable. I must go and try to resuscitate number 2 and wrap it in a warm towel or some such ready for another days input.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sports day

Doodling in my sketch book during the time watching the sports day at the school. Some familiar faces to talk to, so a kind of minimal social interaction day. They split the school into the white team and the red team. The kids have reversible hats to show their color and the teams are decided at random. The kid on the left is doing the cheering for the white team. There is a facility for people with varying degrees of mental inability and some of the inmates come along to sports day. They take part in one event where two kids hold their hands while carrying a ball in a box with strings, a bit like an egg and spoon relay, but a lot slower and with the ball in a box it can't get dropped. The event used to be one inmate and one kid holding the box between them, but I guess they thought that was a bit too much of a risky proposition.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Under carriage

I had planned on getting back onto paper today, but the final straight of cooking up and wire brushing a big batch of parts has left my arms a bit tingly. I think my time will be better spent giving myself a haircut this evening. The stack contains all the undercarriage parts and I am on the last stretch with the shaping of the backs too. The majority of the stack parts still need sanding back and polishing, but at least they are all scorched up. I did the back rail of the chair in the vice with a much smaller torch than usual and also damped it down to keep checking to a minimum. It looks like the part of the plan that I was most worried about should work OK and I may be on track for a glue up before the end of next week.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Newton's Kittens

Yesterday my wife took some time off to go and look at kittens with a view to choosing one to keep. Our destiny is apparently entwined with one of these mutts in the picture.
I was writing to a friend yesterday and suddenly remembered I had had my own version of a Newton moment while back in blighty, which kind of connects with the chimp puzzle box and kittens too. What are the chances?
I was in the car with my brother driving out of a nature park. I had to get out to open the gate to let the vehicle through. There was a gated stile for people next to the big gate, so I headed for that having shut the gate behind the car, but the stile was tied shut with string, so I climbed over the fence. When I got back in the car there was a funny atmosphere and my brother said, "Bit of a mental breakdown there". It took me a minute to see what he meant as it had been a complete mental breakdown. I hadn't thought to just go through the car gate and shut it after me because it was a "car gate" and I had seen the human portal off to the side. Then when the stile was crossed off the menu with the tightly knotted string I didn't even consider the car route as an option, so hauled myself over the fence. Amazing.
The Newton intellect also had some type of related spatial dyslexia. In his case there were of course some compensating factors that I can not claim to share.
He had a cat, in order to avoid troubling his vast intellect with the hassle of training it to use the latch on the human portal via a series of strings and pulleys (maybe he tried that, too), he cut a hole in the usual way to allow it private access. At a later date the cat had kittens, so he cut a smaller hole in order that they might also have similar access. Amazing times two.
While I was writing the story yesterday, mistakenly casting dogs in the parts of cat and kittens, it suddenly occurred to me that our Isac probably didn't take a saw to the door himself. He would surely have had a carpenter do it. If he did, the local pub must have been an entertaining spot that evening when the carpenter set about telling the tale with a good deal of embellishment.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I managed to get enough work done to tire myself today, lots of dust and polishing. During one of my breaks pottering down to see how the little beans and radishes are coming along I spotted this husk on a plant growing out from the pond. It would have been neat to see the dragonfly emerging. There is something so threatening about this little form that one can feel the mind reassuring itself in little waves, "It's just a skin, it's harmless". There is a complicated looking snap-out-and-grab-you jaw arrangement under the chin that I didn't look too closely at, I need my sleep and I don't want him in my thoughts past bedtime. I am sure I must have been a short lived tadpole in a past life, I suppose in one way we all were.
Exactly 50mm long from snout to spike.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mother's day

Unfortunately the lily of the valley is now almost over, but I took this picture of one of the blooms outside my workshop door earlier in the month. My mother inherited a fondness for these shy little flowers from her father. I am afraid they bloom among the rocks and rust here, but in themselves they are a delight.
I don't seem to mark birthdays on here much, but today
is my mother's, so I shall be raising a glass to her a little later.

Monday, May 19, 2008


A TV program made me think a bit yesterday. Probably a mistake, but I will try and explain. It was a program comparing great ape and human intelligence. This box puzzle was one of the instances where we come out with some interesting results. A puzzle box like this, but with opaque walls is presented to a chimpanzee. An adult woman acquaintance of the chimp demonstrates a ritual of unnecessary actions before opening the little red fronted drawer to get a sweet, the chimpanzee carefully follows the actions and gets the sweet. The same experiment is performed for a child who also follows the ritual to get the sweet. Then this transparent box with exactly the same structure is brought out by the same woman to observe the behavior of the relevent primates. Here the chimpanzee pulls out the drawer and gets the sweet as it can see there is nothing to stop it doing that. The child can see that too, but it follows all the ritual actions and then opens the drawer to get the sweet. Apparently this behavior is called overimitation.
It seemed to me to have interesting implications for the perpetuation of a lot of ritual behavior in society. I think it might be interesting to try the experiment a little like that game where a whispered message is passed along a chain of people to be found utterly changed at the end. In the experiment the relationship of adult and child seems to be a big factor, if a chain of children were subsequently to demonstrate the ritual to each other in separate interactions I wonder how far down the chain the ritual would survive. It would also be interesting to see if the use of words might cause increased longevity.
Here is a site that has more pictures and whatnot describing the thing more fully. For a more in depth and less bite sized version with some weird long words, a few equations and no chimpanzees go here.
It is interesting to speculate on how these irrelevant rituals we all pick up effect us subconsciously, somewhere in our heads we must be having a bit of a giggle as we do this unnecessary stuff and also making a lot of snide comments on internal memos about the people who "taught" it to us. There is certainly a morbid fascination to these type of experiments that reveal something of the pattern that governs our acquisition of behavior. I suppose it would be a little simplistic to call it a program that governs us, but if we take that as an analogy this would seem to be a subroutine that needs some work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spoon show

I thought I would put one of the spooners I made in and also brought up the next customer for gouging to keep it company.
This piece has just had a quick going over with the belt sander to put rough lines in, I will use the larger spooner to refine the shapes and put in more definition. The gouge was made from a broken impact driver bit using some fire bricks and a propane torch as a forge before I had contracted up for oxygen and whatnot. Thanks to that success I now have a load of broken driver bits clogging up a drawer as I can no longer throw them away knowing what they might become.
Another useful piece of vice equipment to assist the hands is the leg, keeping one end of the work tucked up and under helped control the little cuts here. The thing about using the gouge is that you need to change position so frequently it becomes more efficient to be able to hold the piece and shift it about than scuttle around a piece held in a vice.
As you can tell, I am wearing my blue stage overalls this week. Just about every other week as well, but twice I have had to change into shorts. The warmer climes are just around the corner.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spooning again

Having another go at the same theme of chiseling from yesterday. If I go back and look at the drawn images from when I started out on this blogging exercise I can see some development, which is gratifying. Not so much in terms of capability, but in my ease with the selection of a subject to draw. Even though the first one from back on the 8th of October 2006 was of a similar nature, reviewing an event from the day with myself in it. These days I find that circulation more of an acceptable activity and I am more comfortable taking this interest in my own activities. The themes related to work seem the easiest to visualize and this revisiting today makes me think that I might be justified in exploring them a little further with more attempts.
On a practical note, as I have mentioned before, when you don't have a theme or a proper visualization in mind simply making gestural marks on the paper and responding to them until you begin to see something take shape has worked many times for me. I hadn't realized how well these soft pastel crayons draw over each other. I start with a light color and gradually go darker as I get a clearer impression, but light colors can also be overlayed and that is fun too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Swan necked spooners

The camera just had enough power for one go and I wobbled a bit.
I bought two swan necked gouges when I was in my teens, one of them had a spoon shape to it. It is only in the last few years that I have started to use it. I like swan necked spoony shapes for gouges and have made a few smaller versions for myself and others. The design allows the thumb to act as a fulcrum so you can get a lot of force in behind the little blade as the other hand pulls down on the handle using the whole length of the tool as a lever. The other fingers on the clamping hand anchor the thumb and the work, with a little practice you can get up quite a bit of speed and get the shavings flying even just with work held in your lap.
Don't try this if you happen to be an expendable character in a Hollywood movie, it is sure to result in a very reduced line count in your script and probably a painful demise shortly after the commercial break during which your stage overalls will be ruined with all kinds of spurting stagecraft additives.
Continuing with chair decorations in a day split three ways with swap overs between computer and manual work.
This evening we are hearing our first tentative tree frog chorus. I hope the weather has set warm or they will be getting sore throats.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Listening to more of those podcasts has rather jaded the spirits. Stuff about how the subprime credit crisis was manufactured and the battles in Iraq. I must find something a bit more light hearted. Sitting on the veranda to listen out for wildlife I was pleased to be distracted by the moon rising above the trees. Most of the more dramatically lit craterscape had disappeared by the time I thought to stick the camera on the scope. I began to wonder where the blokes actually landed up there, that is one picture I would have liked to see in the "A man on the moon" book, which is still my bedtime reading. Fortunately a few words typed into google find all the landing sites laid out on their moon map.
Sadly a lot of the financial stuff I was listening to drew parallels between our current time and that time in the seventies when funding for the Apollo missions and a lot of other seemingly important stuff faded away. We do seem to have done a lot of nasty things in the "naughties". That seemed like such a light hearted name for the decade to start the millennium when I first heard it from a friend on the recent visit to blighty (from which I returned one month ago today), but perhaps it has a more sinister note as well.
Half a day on woodwork and off to the school for one of those object making volunteer sessions in the afternoon. Only four kids taking part this year, so I should be able to remember their names.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Not a very comfortable looking seat with the essential human interface parts missing. I had to scorch up and polish one set of rungs and stretchers just to see if I had gone way off track. The sense of working in a design vacuum does press in sometimes, so I need that feedback from the actual work to help me out. In that respect keeping up the blog has been something of a revelation as I never used to photograph work in progress much at all.
Another day shared between work activities, but somewhat brightened when the rain eased off and the sun came out for a short spell in the afternoon while I was getting all sooty with wire brushing the surfaces back onto these parts. Now I know what to do with those bits I must make some final decisions for the legs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Soup's up

One of those days that got eaten up with work on the computer. I took a break from that to give my feet a bit of attention. They seem to be having trouble holding together, cracks appearing all over the shop. I thought I might try some soaking in hot salty water to cheer them up. It worked OK and they were a lot happier. When the rain cleared and it was time to swap places with my wife at the computer I took them out for a walk with the pup. I must make a habit of trimming the appendages down more aggressively to stop the skin getting too thick. I have never tried this foot soup technique before, but it is very soothing.
Out on the walk I listened to the podcast of a program called "This American Life". It was an episode called "The Audacity of Government" and it was very interesting. Very well worth a go, especially if you are a resident of the said nation.
The morning blogging slot just didn't open up at all today. Hey ho.

Monday, May 12, 2008


WOops, I managed to miss a day.
These spring mornings are no longer very springy. The chill has meant stoking up the stove again and even though there is not quite the urgency of the winter morning routine, fire is back on the menu. I wonder what the plants are making of it. The trees with the most delicate leaves are just beginning to unfurl their canopies, I hope we don't start to get stormy winds to go with the wet and cold. I am sure these trees have waited out the early spring to avoid the winds and the first hungry larvae, they may end up with tattered tents this year.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Guitaring again

I am having some difficulty in correcting my blogoclock to morning mode, I hope it will work out in the end. This is a bit of a do over with Sammy figuring out chords again. There was one day when he went from guitar to piano and then on to the clarinet, it is lucky that we don't have a drum set or I am sure he would have got percussive.
We are back in March weather here with chilly temps and rain for two days.
Spirits slightly dampened, but the plan with the chairs does seem to be working and looking back at the ones already mostly done helps give more of an impression of what is appropriate for the workpiece in hand. One set of tiny mortices left to do.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Not an outstanding photo this morning, but interesting for me.
I had forgotten that I had left the mortice holes for the backs until this point as I wanted to give the seat planks time to move (they must not shrink too much or bow once the mortices are cut). So each chair I take to bits has to have that done (two more to go). This was yesterday's customer. The wood web of stretchers is the one on the bench from yesterday's photo. I hadn't noticed until this morning that the little patterns on the rungs I made yesterday were following the rhythm of the curves in the bottom catching divet in the seat plank, I suppose my subconscious is at work.
I am sure it seems a long winded process, but having this chair back up together to photograph means that the next one in line will take things a little further along and also include any responses I have to the things I have recognized in this one.
I suppose the normal way of proceeding is for a designer to draw out a design and then a craftsman to make it. I have the honor of performing both roles and changing hats frequently throughout the construction process, now I find that my subconscious also has a chapeau to throw into the mix.
I wish it would speak up a bit, it appears to have a personality annoyingly similar to captain Mainwaring and chime in at the last minute, "Ah, I was wondering when you would spot that." . In his case it was always covering up for something he hadn't spotted at all, but hopefully my SC is just venting its rather ironical sense of the amusing.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

To twiddle

Not Cat Stevens, but morning at least. I am at the stage with the chairs where I need to take them to bits again to work on all the parts. At present I am looking at how to proceed with the web of wood under the chair. I want to make it something of an echo of the three uprights on the backs. The twists in the outer stretchers will be the opposite of the ones on the chair back. I have all my parts, now it is just a question of what kind of design to work into them. My main aim is not to let it get too complex or twiddly.
Having one chair to look at while working on the parts for one disassembled seems to be a good way of figuring out where I am going.
I ended the day by making up that bit of concrete shuttering and smashing up some of the concrete rubble instead. It looks like I should have ended with a sweep up instead.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I am interested in changing over from evening posting to morning posting, it might allow me more time to get at the sheet music on the piano in the evening and give a different insight into the day. Both Sammy and I are getting a lot more out of our evening sessions with most of the keyboard on our upright tuned up. Sammy spent most of Sunday digging out foundations again. The two beams laid on their side under the wall there are holding it up waiting for me to devote a couple of hours to putting a bit more shuttering in. I think I will pour another block under there and stick a temporary strut in there while I figure out the chute for the concrete. The tiny footings we put in under the new pillars are solid enough now and that will allow me to take out the temporary pillars resting on blocks when we pour the floor. It is easy to start getting nervous over all these major undertakings, but the fact is that this arrangement is hardly any less stable than the situation before we started, the foundations were almost floating in a lot of places.
Back down on the chairs for today.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Saved by the time difference on this occasion. I forgot all about bloging as the evening schedule took over, but the 6th of May is still the dateline. I went for a brief shopping expedition with Sammy to get one vital commodity related to the smallest room. We must learn to make lists for shopping. Sammy also bought a few more of these little fish for the pond. The last ten he bought got drawn down to 4 by the general attrition of nature and the females among those have started laying eggs like the one with the globules here, so he has been encouraged to increase the gene pool. Apparently these fish called Medaka were originally to be found in the wild, but these days they are in decline.

Monday, May 05, 2008


A lengthy trip to the shops and a little work in the shop used up the day. Sammy is relaxing into the evening with a little guitar practice. I'm sticking with the offspring as subject matter while they are about for the Golden week holiday.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Knee hugging at the laptop again as darkness fell on the cedar trees outside the window and the Gray thrushes of the region sang beneath them

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Another go at Sammy. Today he heard me talking on Skype about my slow attempts to learn to read music and got out one the sheets of music (gakufu) I had been learning to try for himself. It didn't take him long to get it. The gubbins is still on display while we correct tunings, so there was nowhere to sit the music except on the keys not being used.
We had a wildlife encounter in the morning. My wife gave the guests a lift to the station and they called up midway to say that there was a dead monkey on the road, so I should go and sort it out.
I went in the truck with Sammy having picked up a shovel on the way. When we got to the spot there were a lot of monkeys about and we found that the little chap wasn't dead but just very buggered up by whatever had happened to him. He was lying right in the middle of the road, so after evaluating him as a possible survivor unworthy of the kindest blow from the shovel that I had been prepared to administer I loaded him on the makeshift stretcher and carried him up the road to a safer spot. As I was walking along the muscle bound head honcho of the group came down threateningly to within a few feet. But I stared him down and found myself addressing him in aggressive Japanese tones. He got the message and backed off. He did look intent on administering some major tailoring damage to the trouserings. There wasn't much to do after that but hope for some of the members of the twisted little chaps tribe gathered close in the trees around to come down and keep him company while he emerged from his state of shock or passed his last few moments.

Friday, May 02, 2008


It is fun to look at drawings and see them afresh in the photos on here. All the parts that are squiffy stick out a mile. I had a bit of a longer session at scribbling Sammy while his hair is still following the shape of his head so closely. The piano is sounding a lot better.
We are being blessed with a drop of rain and the wind is blowing up a storm as well, so all the new green leaves will have to keep a good grip on their twigs and branches this evening.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


New territory here with pictures from an unknown source. This because of the lateness of the hour and a minor coincidence.
I took a break from the hum drum to have a go with the oxyacetylene cutting gear and get some junk ready for tomorrow's rubbish collection. I couldn't find my regular safety glasses, so I put on a pair of dark glasses that was to hand. I finished up with the cutting and reached for the little plastic sheath the glasses had been in. Just as I gripped it a bloody great hornet came snorting out of it and was nearly as surprised as I was as it bumped into my thumb. I didn't get stung and grateful for that I let the thing out the window. It wasn't one of the largest I've had in the shop, but capable of doing some nasty work if at the bottom of one of the insect bipolar mood swings. The coincidence is that I nearly forgot all about blog writing today as I lay in bed reading a book called "A Man On The Moon", then when I went to look for pictures of Hornets, here were the very chaps in their quarantine box having done their stuff back when I was six, apparently they asked for a special stand up session by Sid James and very funny it was too by the look of it.