Saturday, January 31, 2009


Last week we went to view the degree show, and today we have friends visiting, so here is a picture from my daughters display panels to celebrate the weekiversity. Perhaps it might become a series if Saturdays continue to be so action packed.
This was a kind of museum managed by people living within it, it looked like a little village kind of community space with little windy areas inside.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tiny rapids

The river is looking much healthier after some heavy rains. Nothing like the chocolate color it gets during severe typhoons, but a few white heads. This is the view looking south or south south east off of our veranda and covers 90 degrees or so of the visible panorama. The far right wood pile from the other day is covered with sheets and the round shape is where I burn anything woody that won't make it into the stove in the house. It has featured in a couple of the drawings up to now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I discovered a few stainless steel welding rods so went back to my practical tests for a short spell this morning. Much easier, but still no cigar winner in my opinion. Had fun drawing at least. 
Even though I have one of those auto darkening helmets it is easier to see how things are going with it out of the way. 
The last volunteer session for the year with the kids at school from 2pm today. It sounds like they will be asking me to do it again next year and there is no further cut in the hours, so that is a good sign in terms of the need for creative minds in society. 
Another delivery of wood from down the road had come while I was away, so we may be OK for the season now. I popped straight down to thank the bloke with a few cans of beer that had recently come my way.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A day at the woodpiles. Making a strange zigzag of planks from one pile to another and then into the shop. Using one plank to slide 4m planks of potential sofa material from a more distant store to an existing one in front of the shop. Measuring, checking, planing and cutting where appropriate on the way. 
I had one of those realizations that seem important at the time as I steered my mind consciously away from the image of the finished item that is the realm of the designer and then put on the hat of the artisan concentrating on the simple selection and preparation of materials. It is weird how these little changes of mindset have such a big effect. Working away at drawings and designs is useful, but it doesn't get one any closer to the end product, so a change of hats is essential when one has the challenging multiplicity of personality that leeds one to attempt all stages of the production. I must have felt similar switches before, but this time with greater clarity of purpose.
Anyway, as always it was satisfying to see the patterns of wood emerge from the grimey lumps kept hidden under protective sheets for so long.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wood and welding

More wood delivered as the chap down the road tidies up scraps and old wood in readiness for his house construction project. He is being very optimistic as he still hasn't got any kind of approval for the build as yet. In fact the only news has been negative so far due to all the new regulations since the big Kobe earthquake. Apparently our city is one of the sticklers when it comes to the application of rather patchy legislation.
In the afternoon I had a go at retraining myself with stick welding in case I have to do that on one of the upcoming jobs. Not fun at all compared to TIG, just having to clean that slag off every time makes it a miserable job. Perhaps I should just check whether I can get the TIG welder running from a generator instead.
A nice blaze through the round stove window thanks to the charity of near neighbours.

Monday, January 26, 2009


A day of good fortune as the chap down the road called to offer a load of firewood. That meant I then spent the day at the saw and axe, but I was grateful to have the stocks boosted as we were running low again. In an unusual end to the day I was doing the evening cook up. Sammy came home as I was at the pots and pans, well only the one actually and I think I may have been stirring then, not adding onions. Anyway, he nearly made my hat pop off as I hadn't heard him come in.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sofa start

A little bit of semi scale drawing to get some idea of the dimensions of timber I need to prepare for the sofa project. The size of the cushions and general ergonomics are my guide lines for scale. I still need some more ideas to come in before I actually start cutting things up, but at least I have a general idea of what kind of stuff to get into the workshop arena.
I saw Mr Obama on his first weekly address, but it is the first time I have been seriously disappointed with his team. (Apart from them messing up the actual oath taking at the inauguration) He was sat too near the camera so his eyes moving across the text made it disturbing viewing. One of my pet peaves is eye contact or lack of it. You sometimes see it in actors who have lost their place. When you look at someone close up you tend to stick on one place on the face, seeing the fellow human as an entity rather than a simple object.  I think actors sometimes lose their sense of the thesbian counterpart as an entity and their brain gets into an involuntary jam. Then, like zoo animals pacing in front of a fence. The eyes end up glancing from one eye to the other flicking across the face of the other protagonist because they have not managed to fully subsume their role and take on the makebelieve as reality. I don't imagine there are many folk that find this to be an issue and a correspondence course in how to avoid it would not make one a fortune.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


We went in to town today to take a look at the degree show my daughter has her work in. She seemed to enjoy the final project in the end and all point counting aside that is the main thing. I am afraid I tend to get a little side tracked by world events sometimes and although I do enjoy drawing for the blog I feel a form of guilt when I switch web pages from news of life in the manmade hell of middle earth to this tiny record of my daily doings. One gets to feeling that there is so much evil being perpetrated that this record of the normalities I enjoy is more like salt in the wound than a balm capable of healing. Nevertheless my aim is for the latter.  I hope that even mildly positive news does help keep the Internet balanced in some small way. And that the children we are turning lose on the world will be well balanced in the gentle strides they take across this earth. 
Even in times of war, days pass and everyday concerns must be attended to. If even there we experience terrible banality how much more banality is there in our everyday lives and how much more justification in taking a short time to have a poke at the brevity of it all and presume to make the audacious step of noting down what has transpired on one turn of the orb. 
It is the dog's birthday tomorrow, perhaps that explains the urge to contemplate the infinite. 
Anyway this morning the kettle was already hot from the stove when I went to refill it for the morning and the sun coming through the window made merry with the many tongues of steam emerging from its mouth and we also have a new and very blue filter on the springwater tap.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I popped down to see how the frogs were getting along this afternoon having mentioned their fondness for the wet yesterday. I was surprised to find that they had left me a little present. The wallet wasn't in the fridge after all, but lying down there next to the pond. I must have dropped it when I went down to check there was spring water coming in when I heard we were due for snow. No eggs in the pond yet, but I was glad to see all the little bits and bobs in the wallet, pictures and whatnot, not to mention the cash as that is always a welcome guest. All drying out on the living room table now, but most of the plastic will just have to be cut up and left out of the transplant operation.
I am not sure what to do with the scrap of shed snake skin I put in the old wallet. This is supposed to bring luck, but I cannot decide whether the loss or the return of the prodigal should be alloted more weight on the scales of fortune. I think I even turned it right side out when I found it, because the head still had the little contact lens scales from the eyes, which I don't often find.
I had a meeting in the morning to discuss another little job dismantling a set of stainless steel stairs and that prompted me to have another go at getting my plasma cutter running properly. It seemed like it might be one of those days where things go right. I wasn't having any joy with the high frequency gap between electrodes adjusted to the measurements mentioned on the Internet, so I decided to just space them right out and work inward. This and a little cleaning did the trick. I think the electrodes must be over a millimeter apart now and the web says they should be about 0.2mm, so if you are having trouble with your machine give it a go. I was glad to see the thing working as it will facilitate work greatly if I can use it on site. Oxy cutting torches have no dominion over stainless steel unless it is thin enough to simply melt away.
The other point was that I had rigged the dual purpose machine to do a quick changeover from tig to plasma, but I had not realized that the TIG torch connection must be disconnected or the plasma torch will not function.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Raining for a change. I was glad to have got the stuff out of the shop and was able to do a little tidying up. There was a gap in the clouds just before lunch so I used that to saw up and chop some firewood. It sounds like we are in for some balmy weather tomorrow, so the frogs will be pleased.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The somewhat incongruous raftlike object ready for dissasembly and transport. I had just cut all the slats to length and was measuring the cumulative gap so that I could calculate the correct spacing between them all for when I screw them in down at the yard. Thirty gaps and the space here is 330mm, so about 11mm if you are taking notes. All I need now is a suitable whale in whose throat to lodge this filtration device. 
I had a call about another little reservoir related job, so popped in to discuss that after stacking all the parts shown here at the yard near the lake. What a shame Sammy wasn't at home to give me a hand carrying it all up the stairs to the truck. 
Birthday fare to be consumed later in the evening and glasses to be raised to our boy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Playing catchup everyday. Sammy and I set our alarms to listen to the inauguration speech which was around 2 am on the morning of the 21st out here. Coincidentally this meant it was also two hours into Sammy's birthday. I hope the world does a lot better in his 21st year.
We took  my daughters display stand to her university earlier today as it happened to be a school holiday for Sammy. We were only at the gate for a few seconds as the officious guardmen were not particularly cooperative. When we left there we quickly got something to eat and sat in the car park of a local community area. To my surprise a bloke then stepped out of a car across the way from us with a Gyr falcon on his arm. He strolled over to a tree and sat at the foot of it, then broke out his fags and started to smoke. It was a bit like looking at some wild spirit chained to a fuming rock. I wouldn't normally have attempted polite conversation, but I wasn't sure of the species as it was a juvenile bird and I wanted to see what kind of conversation the rock was capable of. 
Not much. 
I suppose the bloke could have been an off duty falconer protecting an airport from the type of bird damage to planes that twittered its way around the world last week, but his conversation and my enthusiasm for looking at chained birds was not sufficient to carry me to any clear information as to the purpose of the erratic boulder and its feathery sattelite. All I did gather was that the bird was of Canadian parentage and the chap made his own hoods. I must look up and see how much bigger these birds are than peregrines.   
It was more marked as a slightly disturbing encounter as we had chanced to see a big female sparrow hawk from our car earlier on that was making free to harrass pidgeons as we drove into the urban sprawl and my memories of watching Goshawks soaring in our valley were still very clear.  

Monday, January 19, 2009


More painting of parts today along with a little translation work. I have arranged to take the parts to a yard near the reservoir where I can assemble the pallet to await the final setting. I think we are going to transport some things into Tokyo tomorrow for my daughter's graduation display. The hauling of the timber and metal fittings will be on thursday if the weather allows, so that should give the paint a chance to dry properly.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I spent an hour or so on making up a new fitting for the water cooled TIG torch. Yesterday the wire inside the hose snapped, so the thing wasn't working at all. It seemed like a good time to try a new approach. Necessity in this case is simply that I don't want to fork out for a new torch, so I was happy to invent a solution. I think the wire is so frayed and tired in there that bits wash down and clog up the torch. I gave that a blow out too, so we might get a bit more service out of it before the clogs are popped. I abandoned the existing length of tube that connected the wire to the nipple on the end and made a new section to mash down onto the wire and then carefully brazed that on to the nipple. I had nursed that old section of tube through several repairs, but it suddenly lost all value and I spotted it later laying neglected on the floor where I had dropped it. Anyway, I got it all going again and did my last bit of welding on the corner fittings and it did seem to work fine for that. Then in the afternoon I gave the metal parts a coat of paint. I'll give them another one tomorrow if they are dry enough.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The framework mentioned yesterday. The ratchet, monkey wrench etc should give an idea of scale. I remember when I had just got the floor done in this room I had a project to build a new roof for the washing machine room with 2x4 and I was able to construct and test assemble all the wall frames in this space, which made it possible for us to get the roof off and get as far as the rafters for the new one in the same day.
A bit more cramped now. I was just adding some little diagonal struts to the metal brackets on the inside of the corners. The torch again playing up, but I got the tacks done so tomorrow I can take them off and weld up properly. The metal bars are just to extend the earth over to the far corners. You can see the three mortices in the far side ready for three 10cm square spars across the middle then a stack of timber has to be screwed in across from left to right, but not in here or it will never get out the door.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Laying about

I am persevering with the driftwood dredger for the reservoir team. I thought I could make it up in parts, but in order to coordinate holes drilled through different parts to accommodate bolts I had to clear a 2x2meter space in the shop to lay the thing out and bolt it up on the floor. I got all the relevant parts bolted together before coming up for the day. There are some cross spars to check for fit and then I must paint up the metal parts. The final assembly will have to take place in sight of a crane as the thing is too heavy to lift once assembled. I put a piece of polystyrene on the floor when I have to lay about as the concrete is not meant for comfort. I have some of those interlocking foam floor tiles in the bench room, but not in the main area where the equipment is all on wheels.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I abandoned the road route today and went on a circular march up the mountain. Not a bird in sight the whole way. As we emerged from the forest into the last stretch through an overgrown plum orchard the reason became apparent as I spotted a distant goshawk soaring around in the valleys. Almost tear provoking the wonderful blue of the sky with that distant terror cutting through it, then even more so as I took the binoculars away and just gazed at the deeper blue directly above hiding the stars.
And then back home to work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Completing the trestles by cutting little keyhole T slots for the bar fixing the two sides of the contraption and then fitting hinges. Also making up two boards for the models to sit on in my daughter's graduation display.
I forgot to mention that yesterday was the first time I have taken the binoculars out on the pup walk, nothing dramatic to look at, but even brief views of thrushes and great tits were fun. The only problem was that the ways were still covered with ice and snow, so I had to keep a pretty close eye on the footing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Thankfully my alieness has now been reregistered and after a major trek I also have my replacement driving license. I left home at half past nine and returned around half past six traveling about on trains and camped out against walls and in uncomfortable chairs while the papermills processed my applications and ID chips were embedded in suitable locations. I am truly grateful that the majority of my time is not spent in this sort of activity. It is utterly amazing that people retain any semblance of humanity doing this kind of thing on a daily basis. I am sure it would not be long before I went nutty if I had to do the whole commute again the next day.
On my way back I thought I ought to get a replacement wallet too, so I bought a little sky blue number and a little spring loaded reel of twine in a similar color to keep the thing attached to my person while out and about. I think any future searches, should they become necessary, will be greatly facilitated by the orphaned item being any color other than brown. Being that my usual habitat is in the vicinity of woodpiles and such earth colored regions, provided I don't fall in the sea I should be able to spot the wallet if I drop it. Now that I have got everything replaced I await the discovery that my old wallet has been hiding in the fridge or somewhere equally unlikely.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Adult's day

Still slightly distracted as my internal engines try to picture the location of my wallet. I sawed up the remainder of the thinner firewood and then set to sawing up the plum tree cut down yesterday and also chopped that up with the axe. The repetitive motion of the circular saw against the break is very tiring in the end. In drawing I can recall the feeling of stuffing the saw hand into the gap between the blade guard and the handle to keep a firm grip on the thing in case it decides to kick.
It is Sammy's coming of age day today. Little ceremonies are held at community halls all over the country and it is a national holiday. Boys wear hakama or suits and girls Kimono or suits. One boy at the ceremony for those of my daughter's age wore a denim suit with broad white stitching, but that is so unusual as to be almost a clinical aberration.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Community new year event appeasing and giving tribute to the mountain gods. Tiny bit of manual work in the early morning expanding a silver ring for the friend staying with us. I have never worked with silver before, it was surprisingly easy to reduce the metal. Little taps with the hammer while the ring was set over a long center punch to act as a mandrel.
A tiny tree felling job after the event and finally a little more firewood sawing with the circular saw.
I think Sammy took the friends to the station, I couldn't have driven them anyway as the license must go with the driver here, driving without it is not permitted.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Today's artwork courtesy of our youngest guest and some spongy brushes. My endeavor to photograph her work and make it into a desktop for her new personal computer met with little enthusiasm.
Catching up was the task of the day. Sammy and I went on a brief excursion to search for the wallet, but with no success beyond the capture of a rather natty blue enamel kettle which had been abandoned. On our return we quickly made up a batch of sandwiches and embarked on a trip up the mountain passes in the truck with the visitors. I had spent an hour or so changing our two vehicles over to their winter wheels to allow both these missions and it was a good job I did, the snow was still thick on the ground higher up in the hills. We walked up to the highest pass and had our sandwiches overlooking a view of mount Fuji swathed in cloud like an elephant trying to hide behind a curtain. Not us, the mountain you understand, punctuation is not my forte.

Friday, January 09, 2009

White, but not Christmas

Still feeling slightly wibbly, but I have doused the bloodstream with medication of all kinds. No sign of the pigskin yet either. I have searched in all places near home, so my last resort is to search from far away and then report the loss to obtain reissue of the relevant documents, a major pain that will hopefully mean I don't repeat the foolishness. Just now waiting for a friend who is coming to stay with his daughter. Snow fell last night and is falling again now, so at least we made the right move in replenishing the firewood stocks and the stove is chortling nicely now.
I took receipt of a pair of binoculars today, extremely close focus creatures from Pentax, they seem very handy and they will be accompanying me on my walks from now on.
Sammy sealed up the big parcel of inner tubes after extracting the two he had ordered and managed to do it with all the same pieces of tape, carefully removing them and setting them aside for reuse.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lost Papers

More zonked than I thought, falling fowl of the incoming stream of viruses and apparently losing track of my wallet at some point on the excursion yesterday. These things happen.
They happen at bike shops too. Sammy ordered a couple of inner tubes on the web. A replacement and a spare. Around noon as I was busy sawing my way through some of the stack of firewood a bloody great parcel arrived. The price was right, but the tubes would have had to be solid rubber to make up the size and weight. The shop had sent twenty instead of two. Their request for return of the extra invoice arrived shortly after by Email.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Absolutely pooped after scrabbling about in a giant game of pick up sticks all morning. At first I didn't think we would be able to dig down to anything interesting, but in the end we found some larger planks of Zelkova buried under a load of reasonable firewood. The bulk of the sticks on top are just not worth the trouble, they are so thin they would burn up in a moment. 
A bloke came by just as we were about to leave and was fairly hostile for a sunny day. The pile is a free for all and he was moaning that everybody was taking the stuff he wanted. Obviously the youngest child or something. Anyway, we remained civil and that was that. I'm glad he wasn't hovering about the whole time or it would have made the blue sky grey.
Sammy drove the truck back and after it was unloaded he wanted to take it to the yard too so that he could get that weird sensation when switching to driving the little light truck that makes it seem like a little bumper car.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


The stock of firewood is looking slightly aneamic to me, so planning a trip to collect more tomorrow.
I want to borrow a larger truck for that, so I felt I should get one or two chores  out of the way for the people I am borrowing it from. Nothing particularly arduous, just replacing a plank of rotten decking and figuring out a little roof repair on a shed under their veranda overlooking the lake. I think of it as a barter system, I hope that neither party is losing out on the deal.
Still lovely fine weather and the day seems longer by the water as the sun sets in between two hills while we lose it behind the mountain much earlier in the day.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Helperton magic

Screwing the trestles together after drilling appropriate pilot holes. Helping out with gluing up a base for the larger model for missy. The problem she was having was just not bcking up her little corner blocks to resist the force of the stapler, the shock of the staples going in was busting things up. We got through it OK and then she put the top on for a trial fit. She was worried when it wouldn't go in, but with a bit of corner chamfering with a plane and some little tippy taps it popped in perfect and she said, "Magic".

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Shifted temporarily to helping with my daughter's graduation project planing up some timber to make into a couple of trestles. She is constantly drawing plans and sections, but we are near the final iteration of the structure. In the evening we all went to eat at the house of a client from the past who has a couple of sculptures outside his house. The early spring should see me working on a new entrance way door for the house as well.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


A little welding, more cutting with the torch and a quick go on the press to put some ninety degree bends in some quarter inch steel plates.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Low water

We are enjoying a long spell of sunny days, but this has made the watercourses run very low. The stream below the house is not yet running below its bed, but the spring we drink from has now shrunk to a trickle and is no longer strong enough to feed the pond. The water in there got so low I had to divert the spring with a hose to save the fish and their brethren from freezing during the night. On a recent job I acquired one of those siphon starter pumps that you rotate with a drill. That saves a lot of coughing and spitting. Thumb at the ready to stick over the end of the hose and poke it down into the water.
Yesterday I made my first ever donation to support Internet radio. I am a frequent listener to the podcast of This American Life. It often gives me information that backs up my feelings of optimism and hope for at least some part of the human race. "What price that?" you may ask. "Ten dollars from the family coffers", I reply and what a bargain it is, too.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy new year

The classic image of the bright idea is a lightbulb floating above the head of the person undergoing the eureka moment. That image is somewhat ironic when you consider that these 26 components are the gubbins that is enclosed within the ecologically friendly light bulbs we are encouraged to buy as a brilliantly simple idea for reducing energy consumption. As to the original incandescent light whose discovery prompted the lightbulb image in the first place.... I am afraid even a cursory search on the web will find you a lot of nasty details on the inventor Edison and I don't in any way condone his foisting upon us heaters that also happened to produce light.
However, it seems to me that the energy required to produce the little microcosm of joyful electron handlers shown here must constitute an intolerable amount of waste if they are all thrown out with the bulb. There should be a rethink on this immediately before these wasteful things become accepted. The bulb housing should be detachable from the bulb itself and bare bulbs with no built in ballast circuit should be available on the shelves alongside the bulbs with ballast at the point of sale at an appropriate price like refil packs of washing up detergent, etc. alongside the dispenser bottles containing the same liquid.
Well, I mean to say, enough is sufficient after all.
In the meantime I have confiscated these components for use in circuits of my own.