Saturday, January 29, 2011


On the ride up the mountain the other day I spotted an old abandoned cooler and heater air conditioner unit, so I made another trip up today and brought it back to investigate. Over stressing the rack on the bike and charging the battery with the regenerative braking all the way back down the hill.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


We made a trip to the dam yard for firewood and scrabbled to get to the post office for closing time. I didn't have any business there myself, but didn't want to miss the opportunity for a little rest up in the warm. I took a back seat in the waiting area and tried out the complimentary reading glasses while my daughter took a turn at the counter. Sad to find that I am beginning to need visual assistance for close up work. Amazed at the state of the hands in their winter mode. Not sure if they are more or less human, but certainly primitive.
After sticking the drawing into the cyber pass I wondered whether it would make any visual sense to a noncombatant, not to worry.
The chaps behind the counter at our local branch always seem to get something wrong when we go, they don't appear to have much of a sense of numbers, or indeed a solid grasp of writing, but they have their pensions to look forward to. I can imagine my daughter giving them doubtful glances when they make booboos. I don't spot the writing problems as I too am a little wanting when it comes to literacy. I stayed out of the way in case they got the impression that I was coercing the young lady into making her transactions, but I stay above water and monitor the goings on, so when they announce the wrong numbers I too raise an eyebrow.
For those not up on the Nippon cuture, the vague red symbol at top left denotes a post office, there is a sign on the building and maps bear the same mark at the relevant points.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Looking back on the week I remember thinking at the start that it would be one of those that fly by. Sunday was a drinking doo with the local community, Monday a day in the workshop with the two ladies who like to make stuff. Today I was sat in the car for a lot of the time driving to a meeting and then on the way back popping in to discuss the lettering on the post box and measure up for some other items. When I got back home the sun was gone from the valley, but still lighting the slopes, so I stuck the tripod and telescope in the basket on the bike and rode up to the pass (Toge) at the top to see if I could catch a bit of brightness while observing distant objects. Thanks to the electric power it is a pleasant ride for exercise rather than the slog it would be without. I just keep pedaling and I think I share the load about 50:50 with the motor. I got worried for the tripod a couple of times going over bumps and had to turn around to check it wasn't allowing any of its limbs to leave the vehicle.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Finally left the vicinity of the workshop on a minor shopping expedition and also had the foresight to make a list. One of the items was the puncture repair kit. It contained a little awl type item that one drives in through the puncture to widen it after coating the thing in rubber cement, the awl is then withdrawn leaving a tube in the hole. Then one stuffs a little pellet of rubber down the tube again coated in the gloop and on pulling the tube out the pellet is left in the hole with about 15mm of it poking out. After leaving for 30mins the excess is trimmed off and the tire pumped up to pressure. It seems to be holding pressure properly and I shall change the wheels over in due course.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fishtank mailbox

The fish tank conversion is drawing toward completion, as usual the initial cut and thrust of construction makes it seem like the task will be over quickly, but the details and finishing take more time to do than all the structural elements. The box will be mounted on the wall, so the lid can not protrude backward when opened. That meant making a couple of small angled scissor hinges, even mounting the wood panel on top took a bit of jiggery pokery welding nuts on the steel and bolting the panel up in there from the underside. I am beginning to like the stainless steel and wood combination more than I thought I would. It reminds me of some of the German Art Nouveau items I have seen in pictures. Nevertheless, the door ironwork is black so I will go ahead with the initial more Japanese color plan to blend in with that. I must consult the client as to their choice of signage on the thing, I suppose they might want a flap on it too, but I am happy without that. I do have one of the little flowers I made for the door windows left over, so I may attach that to the center of the lid as a little decoration. We'll see.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My other preoccupation at present is putting down some lines to represent walls and whatnot in the project to make a little window extension for a local cafe/bar/restaurant. Basically adding a small room that will eat into the wood decked terrace they have there now. One large window and several smaller fixed windows to consider as well as roofs, floors and whatnot.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Maybe I have been spending a little too much time thinking how great the grate is, but I am really pleased with the difference it has made to the stove. It does take a full load of wood to get a nice bunch of coals left in the grate for the morning seven or eight hours later. Nevertheless, I end up burning a lot less wood and there is a lot less ash, which I suppose means the wood is burning more completely. One more advantage is that the window stays cleaner, the air vent I put in just before I started this blog a few years ago has made a big difference, but the extra heat has helped too. I still need to find a source for the glass to get a replacement for when the current window eventually breaks. For some reason the American company I used has stopped exporting, busy revitalizing the economy I suppose.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grate in

I was happy to find there were hardly any coals left in the stove this morning, that meant the wood had burnt a lot more efficiently. In this picture you can see the grate, the charcoal burns so hot there is very little smoke once the moisture from the green timber has steamed off the wood dropped in from the top. There are a similar set of fingers up the back that hold the timber away from the walls of the stove and allow oxygen to circulate up from under the basket. I will try stuffing the stove before I go to bed and shutting it right down to see what I get left with tomorrow morning. It took a lot less timber to get through the day, so as long as it stays together for a while we should have less wood to collect.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The wood stove has been underperforming of late and I observed how poorly air was circulating, so I decided to devote Sunday to making a grate for it. It took me a while casting around in my mind among those I had seen and the materials I have on hand. I remembered seeing one made from a thick sheet of steel with long slits cut into it so that it could be bent to form a basket shape by spreading out the splits. I toyed with duplicating, but instead the materials lent the thing a different shape, I had some old rebar that I latched on to one day long ago when walking the dog, a local bridge was being rebuilt and there were lots of scraps of bar that fell into the river during the work, some of these accompanied us home. I used an old grinding disk as a template for size and made a series of shrinking arcs from the rebar bending them in the flypress. Then I bent a couple of little supports and welded the bars into that. I couldn't resist letting the fire burn down and hoiking out the coals into the scuttle so that I could try out the grate in the evening. It seemed OK, but I tried it in the stove sideways first. Even so it worked very well to get air to the back of the stack.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Back to metal work for the next few days, I found an old fish storage tank on a trip to the dam stock yard for firewood. It should have sunk being just a stainless steel frame and a galvanized iron tank, but there were a few bits of polystyrene in it and they held it up to be salvaged.
I wasn't sure what I would use it for, but I am always attracted to stainless steel for its permanence. In the end the finishing of the zelkova wood for the small frame and the idea of using the frame of the tank combined in the subconscious and I had the idea of using it for a mail box that I had been worrying about. The frame will form a blackened framework for wood panels with the lacquer finish of the picture frame a bit like traditional Japanese Tansu.
The first job was cutting up the frame into suitably sized sections.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Another octogenarian in the family, scanning about for something to make quickly as a modest celebratory gift I hit on the small picture frame as a quickie project. My daughter made a little print to go in it and the whole was delivered to Granny a few days late but very welcome apparently.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I changed the tires over on the wagon today. We use studless tires in the winter and a flurry of snow on Tuesday made it feel like time for the moult. I was going to change over the ones on the truck too, but one of them was very low in pressure, so I checked it for witchcraft by dunking it in the pond. I used a long piece of timber to hook under a branch in the tree the frogs lay their eggs in and I was able to crouch down and observe the tire and eventually found a tiny bubbler right by the S in studless. Closer examination on dry land revealed a blunt piece of wire stuck in it. I pulled that out and the tire gave a depressing hiss. I shall have to check if there are any miracle cures for punctures, but perhaps I had better buy two new ones to match them front or back.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bath bits

I used the evening pottering to try and make a fitting for connecting the water boiler in the shop to the bath upstairs. This is a long term project with several parts involved. Japanese bathtubs often have two large holes in the end, these carry water directly to a small boiler which is either directly outside or by the bath in the room. Families bathe in the same water, so a quick blast on the boiler between bathers can bring the water up to a happy temperature. The pipes are made of thin stainless steel less than o.5mm and I wanted to weld a fitting onto the end of one of these to feed water into the bath. It took several attempts as it is very easy to mistakenly blast a hole even with the TIG welder. But in the end I did experience that phase where the pain in the ass struggle becomes an enjoyable task in which the parameters for success are well within reach. At first it is very much a case of either success or buggered. The range of movement involved is probably very small, but in that area one has to keep the tiny pools of metal on the two pieces moving and merging without them burning back or blobbing up and spoiling everything.

Monday, January 10, 2011


The stove tool hook rack. The upsetting I mentioned yesterday is where the base of the hook buts up against the ribbon of metal that forms the rack to make a sort of flange. The neck of each hook is roughly the dimension of the original bar stock, they were drawn down to a taper and then bent to shape. I drilled holes in the strip and welded the hooks on through those holes from the back so no welding is visible from the front. For the past 15 years or so we have made do with nails stuck into the timber, but I pulled them to attach the rack.
Ideally one should be able to bulk up the metal as easily as one can draw it out, but the difficulty is that one must strike the end of the metal to bulk it up or 'upset' it and even a minor deviation in the hammer blows quickly causes the metal to deform off to one side or another and getting an even fattening is a challenge. Drawing down is a lot easier as the side of the bar is the target and small errors can be corrected because many blows are required to produce a gradual taper.
The drifted hole in the rebar isn't visible here, but the bar is on its hook 2nd from the back.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Upsetting the drifters

Blacksmithing today. First with a little rack to hold extra hammers and some bending fixtures, then a hook rack for the items I use everyday next to the stove. Drawing down is pretty much under the belt, but upsetting and drifting are still areas where I lack tools. I wanted to upset the bases of the hooks I made and used an air hammer to blast them while held in the vice like they were rivets having their heads flattened. I have one poker made of a length of concrete rebar, and I wanted to drift a hole in that so that it could be hooked up with the other tools, I got there with an old cold chisel, but it made me realize I need to get a few more jigs and fixtures made if I want to make any serious holes in steel.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Listening to Wilbur Smith on the new speakers, although there is the high adventure element in these stories I was more inspired by the period DIY features of the short series that starts with "Birds of Prey" and determined to take my ash sieving to a slightly more advanced level. I sift out the charcoal left in the ash and burn it in the shop stove, but Wilbur was describing the usefulness of ash for soap making and having seen a load of bottles of old cooking oil in the kitchen I thought I would sieve down to a fine ash and make some lye water to combine with that in an attempt at soap making some time.

Friday, January 07, 2011


At the other end of the day I settle down to pure pottering. I wanted to connect some extra speakers to the little ones that came with a computer. I didn't want to ruin the speakers for use elsewhere, so I scavenged some jack sockets from an old sound board and added a little jack socket in the side of each speaker connected up to the speaker wires inside the box. The 7mm hole required to poke the sockets through was a perfect fit and the things seemed to almost snap into place, but I daubed a glob of hot glue on them inside just to make sure. Then I cut the jack plugs off of a couple of old headphone sets and connected them up to the larger speakers. Seems to work OK.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


No sooner decided to keep up with posting than I get distracted. I do spend most of my time in the shop doing something, even if it is only pottering, but there are moments when the only activity is behind the eyes.
Those don't happen when it is cold, but sadly there is no increase in productivity, the brain box does need to participate at some level and in past winters when I have had no heat in the workspace I have noticed how hard it is to get started on things. These days I have a first job every day in getting the stove lit and that gets me going.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


More shifting in the shop today, I wanted to free up one of the bench tops to make room for materials for the next job. The biggest obstacle was to move the drill press, I had not moved it for a while, so had to jig with it for a bit to see how much of a strain it was going to be to dance with it over to a little table area I had made for it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Lunchtime picture. Handmade Christmas presents this year. I made a polystyrene shape that represents my daughter's signature and then buried that in sand to cast it in copper. It needed some tidying up, but it turned out OK and today I attached a proper handle onto it so that it could perform its function as a little brand that can be used to mark certain substances. My daughters first use of it was on the hashed potatoes for lunch, I hope it will serve for other things too.

Monday, January 03, 2011


One of the episodes during the day involved moving a sculpture that has been outside the house for a while to a new position inside. My daughter gave me a hand, but the thing seemed to have gotten lighter while sheltered from the rain and whatnot, I could almost have managed on my own with a good hand hold. It was interesting to see it in a new space, but still only temporarily waiting for some kind of real home. I think I might hang it outside the window on the veranda where I can see it. It would be like it was swimming past the window.A search for swimmer on the blog should show photos of it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Sky watching

Thanks to the heating in the shop I manage to stay down there quite late these days, but it does leave one a little lacking in vim for the evening scribbling. Following my own advice today and simply making marks until something emerged. Part of my day goes on firewood chopping and these days we keep getting promised snow, so I end up examining the sky when the wonder of the destructive force imposed by the inclined plane begins to pall. So far there have been no big changes in the bird population, a big blob of Brambling usually signals some kind of fall, but the air is heavy with something and the temperature is about right so it won't be long now I suppose.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


We are all still a little bit squiffy with the dog absent from our daily lives. It was our custom to go for a family walk on new year's day, but without the pup it would have been strange.
Digging has featured on the menu recently, not only to prepare a space for rest, but also in a new bid to complete the workshop area. There is just one corner that has not been dug down to the same level as the rest and I am making some explorations to devise a plan for how it will be.
A happy new year to all.