Sunday, March 29, 2009

River cleaning

The last sunday of the month has become a day for tidying the whole vicinity. The retired population in our little hamlet is pretty high now and some of the blokes have decided to do a regular tree felling weed whacking session to tidy up the river areas. It is looking better already in the stretch just below our house, which is where they chose to start. Just below the community meeting room really. There is a much better sense of river space looking down from the road. I think I cut down about ten cedar trees today, all sickly or runts between bigger siblings. It needs a gang of folk for the tidying up, trimming branches etc, which is where most of the effort is required.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Today I followed the weekly plan of taking on home chores at the weekends. Tidying up the wood delivery area and chopping up anything at all questionable to go in the stove. Still some stuff to do there, but the space looks a bit better for it.  

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hole bear

I wonder what it is that draws the eye to the almost invisible blobs of life in the undergrowth. I don't think the dog saw or heard the badger we encountered on our walk today. It was up on top of one of the embankment walls that hold the mountain off of the road. At first a distant blob of fur, through the binoculars and then later much closer, but similarly ill defined due to the huge fluffiness of the tail hiding any body detail when viewed from the blunt end I approached it along the road. 
Finally the critter got a whiff of something suspicious that made him abandon his exposed cat walk and creep off up the slope through the palisade of mini bamboo stems. As he ascended he became visible in the side view and the general mode of being seemed to deserve the name hole bear (Anaguma).  The fur is a sandy brown that blends in well and the head stripes are much less defined than in the european badger, the most bearish feature apart from the rather "unseeing" eyes was the heavily clawed feat flexing out to find wholesome points of contact among the stabby stems.    Interesting to see all this in perfect daylight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Slight hitch in the planning department, so no mortices yet. Hopefully all for the best.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My puzzle block collection is growing. Slightly inconvenient having to do a transcription of all joints as the section I am working on is upside down. No big errors so far. I hope to get some of the vast number of tenons fitted into mortices tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I lost most of the morning to the graduation ceremony at the local primary school. Unfortunately I had been called upon to say a few words.  I make no pretence of being a public speaker, so hopefully expectations were not dissapointed. I find it hard to maintain a lot of thoughts in one batch, so I based a fair amount of the stuff on advice from members of the family, which made it easy to put in some kind of order and remember.
Nice to see some of the little kids giving the songs a good go. One little girl who lives near us was particularly noticeable in her efforts to do the thing justice. One could see that she was internally doing the words of other kids' songs even when it wasn't her turn. Unfortunately no great shakes on portraiture here. 
There were several of the graduate girls wanting to be pianists, a few baseball and soccer player hopefuls.  The surprising thing was there wasn't a single astronaut. I abandoned the idea of making parallels between their 6-12 and mine, but perhaps I ought to give it a go next time round. I was six when the first Apollo landing took place nearly 40 years ago and by the time I was their age the whole moon mission movement had packed up, the space station seems like it should be inspiring a bit of awe amongst the young uns especially as the Japanese astronout is currently swooping about up there going for some kind of zero gravity bone melting endurance record. There was no reference to it at all that I could see in the school or hear in the speaches of others. Perhaps the underground ludite movement has spread to the orient. I must make a point of quizing the school Principal on the point when next we meet.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Back to the bench today. More small lengths of timber required, so part preparation and part marking and jointing. I have quite a few pieces in the home where this one is destined to reside, which was a point that had elluded me. I have followed a kind of offset panel theme in a lot of the work, that runs through from the first piece, which was the front door here.  The effect will be different on the bench, but where I was going to have two end panels I have split them up to keep in with the theme.  Hence my need for little separators. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009


A day of tidying up to make a bit more space available around the workbench and the sink for sharpening tools. I also did a bit of much needed maintenance on the motor for the big belt sander. Just a carbon brush problem in the end thank goodness. I was having to jiggle it about every time I wanted it to turn on. It is a very old motor with a slider that allows one to set it to turn in either direction at start up. the slider carries the two brushes and one of them had stiffened up inits housing. Still lots of wear left in them yet.
Still stacks of timber all over the shop as I have more choices to make and the wood for the next project is also gradually piling up. I tend to keep each piece homogenous to one species. If not, then at least using timber similar in appearance and qualities. Perhaps one day I will try mixing things up with woods of contrasting properties, but at present the prospect does not seem inviting.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I got most of the box work done yesterday and just had lots of sanding and finishing to do today. 
I just go from belt sanding at 40 grit to 150 with an orbital sander and then again to 240. Any stubbornly deep marks I scrape out with the side of a chisel or one of the small plane blades. Then on to a very fine paper. Wetting the wood between sanding is advised in some quarters. This causes the grain to pop up from where it has been compressed flat. I don't wet the wood, but when on the very fine paper I breathe on it like you would on a mirror to polish it. That has similar effect, but very mild.
I used Laquer on this box, I read somewhere about using the base of old spray cans turned upside down to mix small quantities of paint etc. I stick a can in the vice and thin down just enough lacquer to do one coat easily. Straight lacquer is very stiff to work into the grain, so thining it means it can be brushed on easily and the excess wiped off.  I only did two coats about 5 hours apart.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Boxed again

A national holiday. My daughter has a birthday coming up, so I started on a little present for her. A little box of the type seen before on here. First I made up a slightly larger template for the various router and trimmer chores involved, then went scouting for a suitable piece of timber. Leaving this a little over size allows you to screw the template down onto it at points where the wood will later be cut off. I also cut off a slice of wood from one face to become the lid.
The glass and sandpaper reference above is not too clear. The glass gives a good flat backing to the paper and helps give a straight flat edge to the lid at the right 18 degree angle. If I cut it quite fine with the bandsaw I don't have to take off too much wood with the sand paper to get a good fit. A shooting block and a fine cut with the plane would work too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Puzzle blocks

A mile marker or two away from any deep joy, but my mental picture is getting clearer and joint cutting is underway. My area of doubt was the corner where the arm rests and back collide. That is kind of resolved now and I think I have my solution for how to make the thing break down into small parts for transportation. Still just a puzzle of baulks of timber for now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Uncertainties beginning to get resolved in sketches at least.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Measuring in mind

Lots of quizzical measuring while half of the brain at least is inside itself organizing the various materials on the table ready for inclusion in the 3D puzzle. Still not ready to start making mess with major joint cutting. It is easy to get confused into thinking that the squared timber is the finished product.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Morning in

Thought I had this memorized from this morning, but not quite. He is off out again now gathering material for meditative moments.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A night out

Nighty night, don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


A leisurely kind of day pottering about. While searching for ways of transfering 3D files last weekend I found a trial version of a laser scanning application named David. Lots of help on using it as well, so I purchased a cheap laser level to try it out when on a shopping trip. The software did work, but the definition in the trial version was not up to much. Nevertheless, the technology has come a long way as one can set the thing up in an hour or so with very little equipment and scan real objects for input into a 3D CAD program etc.
The level will come in handy anyway. Perhaps when next I am in the black I will fork out for the software license.

Friday, March 13, 2009


It is interesting to see ourselves as others do every now and then. These are the two pirate planks we fixed to the floating world the other day. The barrier keeps most of the floating junk out of the intakes for the dam turbines that lie to the right here. We have to wear a helmet on these jobs, but without the woolly hat on too it is still too chilly. I had planned to attach a hand rail, but the guys who actually do the rubbish scooping said it would be in the way, so that was scratched. Back to the workshop next week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The completed pallet ready for service. I don't think it will be put into service immediately, but one day soon. It fits between the pirate planks and a couple of guys stand on there and scoop the junk onto it to be hoiked up onto a mountain of gloop that is later scooped onto trucks to be stored in measured mounds nearby. These are then sorted by hand to separate plastic and other man made items from the organic material. The pallet looked far too clean and nice for the grotty yard, it felt odd climbing onto it with muddy boots on, so we took off our shoes when we were screwing down the slats and later when we used it as a little picnic area for our tea break.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day two

Our second day on this side of the dam. You might be able to make out the boats from our previous job site on the opposite side. The water is up by about 2 meters now. Tomorrow we will be screwing down the slats on the pallet. Today we had an action packed session in the morning as we put the two blue pirate planks in (they are still to be decked with planks, but just visible at the approximate center of the image) after using the crane to pull out the old planks. One of them nearly whooshed Sammy out with it as he held on to the rope we put on it just in case it slipped its hook. He was holding it a little too keenly and maybe day dreaming, no harm done and he said it was fun, I think he would have been in the water, but for the lucky chance that the rope caught on a lump of wood, which meant it pulled him parallel with the walkway towards me rather than straight out to sea.
The crane line runs right across the water and the pallet will be strung from it to collect surface flotsam. It hangs directly between the two planks so that the men have something to stand on and scoop more gloop onto it, etc.
At the start of the day there was no rubbish at all, but after a pretty stiff breeze from the left there was a nice collection of bottles and other assorted junk.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day one

Our first day on the new lakeside work. Shifting all our stuff from the yard to the site took a while, but in the afternoon we got the frame of the pallet assembled.

Monday, March 09, 2009

All day on translation with just a tiny spurt of manual work chopping firewood wood.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A portion of the day went on translation reviewing, but I managed to carve out the time for a solid session of gluing and clamping. This is timely as I have the go ahead for more work down at the lakeside, so the bench can stay occupied with the patient in compression. All the fiddling with joints looks like it paid off, but I suppose I will find some less perfect lines underneath when I get the clamps off. Still, better there where the sun doesn't shine than out in the light of day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Trying to help my daughter with problems exporting data between 3D CAD programs. In the end it seemed the results were very random. At first it looked like there was nothing there, but when we got out the microscope the plan of a building had been imported at the size of an amoeba.
In the end doing nothing worked best, turn off reset and try again.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sunk home

I got side tracked in the afternoon, but I also got within a whisker on the joints I am working on. This will be the upper surface of the seat. The dark brown patches are the remainder of joints in the reclaimed timber. They will disappear once I carve the seat out. To get the best out of the grain on the ends they had to go on top despite the underside being a better looker, so I took a while to decide on cutting that piece in half for this use.
All the shaping will be done after gluing.
On the wall at the back there is a little circular object with six casters on. I slip that in under big lumps like this to rotate them around if I need to. Lift up one end, chuck that under somewhere near the middle and then take out the pillow pieces under the work and spin away. You could even stick a piece of string on there to pull it out by if the object is a big weight. It saves calling for help or doing lots of maneuvering. A couple more hours work should see me on to gluing with any luck. It is a bit like that philosophy question about objects forever getting half as close to each other and never touching. The joint gaps have to be as close as possible, but they will never be perfect.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


The work of the day.
Cutting my tenons (On the bench at the back) into the castle turret shapes.
These are so shaped in order to give a long tenon while also leaving islands of wood that will hold the sides of the end cap piece together.
Cutting mortise holes of the appropriate depths into the end cap pieces on the mortising machine, foreground. I nearly finished, but ran out of steam around half past six, so a couple more shallow holes to do on the piece in the machine here. Then lots of jiggery pokery with hand tools to get the pieces to fit snuggly and on to gluing and clamps.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


About 3cm of snow on the ground, thicker clumps of fluff on the cedars plopping off into the river. Lots of birds about pleased to see it all melting quickly.
On to cutting breadboard end joints for the bench seat. My plan of attack for this worked OK, chopping off the rough tenon in the machine on individual planks, then made a T square to guide the groove cutter and trim the shoulders with all three planks clamped together. On to mortices tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Snow began to fall during the day in little flurries. Escaped the shop with Sammy for a trip to gather more wood. Some of the logs of Zelkova looked exactly like elephant legs, even having those wrinkle patterns for the elbows or knees. Luckily we just have to lift them out of the truck and dump them over the guard rail down into the yard. Even so, I had to get on those stretches before bedtime.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Polyrhachis lamellidens

I am not one of the cognoscenti when it comes to scientific names, but there she blows just in case you are. Toge Ari is the Japanese name, thorn ant is what I would say that meant in English. Drawing on top of a sketch of my bench project, not to scale obviously.

There was a little nest of these monkeys in some pear wood we got the other day and for a moment Sammy and I pondered over why they all looked like they had some other creature riding piggy back. I went and got the binoculars for a closer look. This was a mistake as I wasted quite a few moments studying the array of hook like structures on their backs. Earlier in the day I had tapped a bunch of them out into the pond for the fish, but having seen them close up I went back to check on their fate and was immediately forced to mount a rescue mission when I saw them floating in little rafts each holding the little group of eggs they had gathered as high above the water as they could. I didn't actually make helicopter noises while on coast guard duty, but it was a close thing. Each time I rescued a raft by holding a scrap of wood next to it the first one on would climb straight up while the others grabbed on tight and held on so that the remainder of the crew could keep their grip on their fellows while I lifted them to safety. I suspected these first off the ship Johnnies of being a little treacherous, but I suppose they could claim to have been mapping a road or some such community minded effort. Anyway, no doubt I will be summoned to a war crimes trial in the Hague in due course, but having seen the error of my ways and acknowledging the heroic efforts to preserve their offspring in the utmost adversity I can claim to have made my best to recover all I could see. I have never seen this species before, but apparently they are among the commoners. Throughout the past few days we have come across individuals and small groups as we clear away the wood. They have all been adopting a sort of standby pose with their tails between their legs waiting for the temperature to rise and pull them from dormancy. Snow forecast for tomorrow, poor little buggers.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


I was having trouble getting a properly jointed edge on the main seat planks with my big planer, I must look into making a better fence for it. But, having given the box plane a shot yesterday to see how it would do I sharpened it up and rather enjoyed getting nice straight shavings off with that. The traditional look to shavings is a curly sort of shape, but the curl tends to mean that the thing is thicker on one side than the other. If the shaving comes off with a sort of singing sound and dead flat it seems to be a good sign. You still have to keep a check on keeping the edge at right angles to the face, but this plane does give a pretty good shot at a flat joint. I don't usually do these kind of joints as I know they can only go downhill from then on. They start out neat, but open up as the years pass, especially with this Elm related wood that likes to dance about over time. In this case the seat will be covered up with cushions most of the time, and I want to carve some kind of curves into it. My main reason for compromising is that my normal mode of floating panels might tend to pinch in private places when the seat is exposed in the summer.
Yesterday's picture shows the plane, the mallet for hitting the back of the plane to pull the blade up out of its slot and make a thinner shaving, the little hammer to tap the blade in for thicker shaving. Also the can of oil spray to shoot on the blade after wiping off the water from sharpening. The Sheffield steel is already starting to lose its edge, but it doesn't get that much use, so no worries. It makes a change to be pushing a hand plane with a handle anyway.