Friday, November 30, 2012


We had a weird patch of localised rain as I was driving my daughter to the station. It seemed that our valley had been specially chosen to be dumped on. Down on the main road the sun was shining. I couldn't help feeling a little cursed.
Then on the way back as the patch of rain was lifting I saw a huge rainbow over the valley and as I turned into our road the whole valley was filled with a wall of spectrum colours in the residual mist. Not just a multiple rainbow, but a gradually diminishing series of spectrums like an excessively organised soap bubble.
Not cursed after all, but blessed when looking in the opposite direction.


Since getting the newer iPad I rarely use the laptop, the better camera also means I can stick snaps of pictures straight on to the blog from the sofa or elsewhere.
I guess it means that the stove needs a poke if I am still wearing my hat indoors.
I added a link to my daughter’s picture blog in the sidebar on the right. Something odd about her template, but if you click on blog archive at the bottom it shows more posts. A day of hand tools in the workshop, using a variety of spokeshaves on the bench planks.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


My knowledge of chainsaw anatomy got a little deeper today. First the saw experienced a relapse in the arterial department. It died in mid cut in the same way it did once before. I explored and found the pulse pipe had deteriorated again, this time beyond saving, so I tried a bit of the gas hose from an old TIG torch. That worked for a while, but it was not up to the high temperatures and began to leak as it grew loose. I then remembered I had saved the hoses from a bike we dismantled as part of the tidying and attached one of them. Again the beast revived, but once again succumbed. This time I met firm resistance trying to pull the starter rope, but there was still some movement back and forth for the engine when I took the guide off and removed the bar. I dug deeper and had a poke in through the spark plug hole with a magnet, found shavings and then a tiny fragment of steel. Got the exhaust off and looked into the cylinder to find a section of piston that looked nasty. Had the cylinder off and found that the piston rings had both split to bits.
Found the number for a local repair place on the web and was told the saw was too old for them to source parts, went on eBay and I have now ordered an overhaul set that should bring the thing back to life. I guess I should be thankful that it was the saw that gave in and not my various jippy joints. I suppose I could give up and buy a new saw, but it does seem a waste. If the current modest outlay doesn't succeed in reviving the thing I will have to admit defeat and buy a new one.
I got the larger of the two logs sawn up into five planks usable as bench tops, but the last, number six, left like the keel of a ship on the cutting blocks was not really wide enough. I can get on and shape the five I have while I wait for parts and the yard is clear enough to drop in more firewood for chopping. So not too tragic a result. While the saw was running it did seem like a fairly good system.
As darkness fell, so did the rain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three planks

The chainsaw started up OK and did a Stirling job on three planks. I ran out of gas in the middle of the third, so thought I would take a snap as I needed to mix up a new batch of gas and oil. No bits fell off the guide and all the lock bolts held. It was easy enough to start the saw even with it on its side in mid cut, but the gas tank cap tends to splutter for some reason, so when the saw is left on its side after cutting there is more than a hint of smoke. This may mean I should have a bucket of water on hand as the splutter might decide to ignite at some point.
It was only when I finished for lunch that I realised that the job had taken a heavy toll on the shoulder, maintaining a steady push on the wild and hungry beast was stressful. And it takes quite a tug on the rope to start up. I may invest in an aluminium ladder and convert that to take the place of the battens, then I can fit a winch to allow me to wind the thing through its lateral cutting motion. In the explanations I looked at on the web they use battens for the first cut and then adjust the guide to take the remaining cuts using the flat surface cut by the saw as a guide. I just laid the battens each time and knocked in a couple of flooring nails on either side of each of them at the very ends to stop them from sliding from side to side. In the first cut I used a spirit level to mark up either end of the log and nailed battens wider than the log onto the ends and then attached the 'rail' battens to them. I am glad I didn't try and fit rollers on the thing, the skids are fine and they push the sawdust out of the way where a roller would probably ride up on it and bind the saw in the cut. The chain seems to stay fairly well oiled, but perhaps a little more would be good on a wider cut.
We have been negotiating to purchase the house we live in and the afternoon went on finalising contracts for that. Interestingly the address for the land our house is on does not appear on any map, nevertheless we are here and we now own the house and pay ground rent on the mythical plot of land. The lawyer said someone had forgotten to write in the numbers at some time in the past and since then the mistake has been perpetuated. Platform 9 1/2. Fairly typical of the Japanese administration system to have these kind of anomalies, modern technology alongside terrible blunders allowed to live on in the machine.
More of the sawing tomorrow as long as I can get my shoulder back in shape. I am looking forward to finding something massive to try the new guide on. Being able to use the thing on site will make me appreciate its virtues much more.


I honestly have no idea what I am up to in this drawing, but it has something to do with chainsaws and that has been the theme over the past few days. The guide is now done, but after getting everything set up it was getting too late in the day to fire things up for a trial run.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The tidying and sorting that has been a big part of the activity over the past few weeks is gradually beginning to throw up some serendipitous fortune. Todays main effort was to carry on with the chainsaw guide that will hopefully be of service. One of the many tidyings was to remove the glass from a bunch of aluminium windows scavenged from demolition sites. A few of the frame parts went into the solar panel mount and today I put two more into the chainsaw guide. They are old and much more meaty than the skimpy high tech extrusions of today, but they still keep the weight down. They were they have a kind of hand grip that runs the whole length that should allow them to skid along smoothly and the channels to house the rubber seals for the glass panes are exactly the right size to house the head of a 10mm bolt, which made attaching them to the support bar frame comparatively simple. It will also allow easy attachment of handles and other accessories. I still have a few bits to add, like locking bolts, size markers and threaded rods with handles to make adjustments easier.
Yesterday I went with my daughter to pick up some timber for another batch of benches. Two sizeable logs of Zelkova, which will be the first customers for this set up. Their delivery involved the use of the crane truck and prompted a major shift around in the yard to allow a clear run at them. The actual width of cut looks to be exactly one meter, but with all the bits poking out and the saw body itself the device needs about six feet of room to run. I may attach the plastic tank down the end to feed oil to the chain, I think the thing may run dry without it. If it works well I will also attach an additional gas tank to allow it to run longer without refilling and maybe even some kind of cable fed hand winch system to make it easier to run through the wood.There are many versions of this type of guide on the web, both homemade and commercial, and this is a bit of a mixture of several of those using materials on hand.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I had aimed to get some progress on the home underway at the weekend, but the mountains of materials about the place are still calling out for fetching and carrying as well as decisions as to their destiny. Shifting rubbish and chopping up some twisted steel into usable bits. Then at the end of the day working on a modification for the solar mount. The electronics seem to work fine, but around the middle of the day the play in the gear mechanism allows the thing to flip back and forth as it tries to settle on the sun's position. A slower mechanism seems to be the order of the day. I will let it stew for a while while other things are going on, but a couple of bits among the machinery pile look promising. Meanwhile it rains.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


I have been working on the solar panel rotator circuit solidly over the weekend and just got the first tests done as the sunday sun was disappearing behind the mountains, the addition of a circuit of transistors and a photocell or light dependent resistor sends the panel back east when twilight falls.
Luckily the tests were sufficient proof of concept, but thereafter I was quickly drawn into an exploration of many of the lesser clauses of Murphy's law that relate to connection failures. An article or two of Sod's law also found its way into my evening endeavours, but for the most part I have now caulked the leaks in the system. If you are engaging in similar activities never underestimate the ability of any connection to work loose, crack, oxidise or otherwise draw upon itself impairments that hamper the free flow of electrons. Also in my case never underestimate the capability to forget to push switches, insert plugs or make any other blunder that can cause several moments of head scratching.
So, with a few more bits and bobs here and there I can connect the thing up and watch it seek the sun.

Friday, November 02, 2012


One of the little metalwork jobs I have been meaning to fit in was to make covers for holes in pillars that house bolt heads. I had some acetylene cutting to do, so I added on the task of cutting four circles like this. The bolt heads are recessed into the wood as the pillars are in foot traffic areas and would snag passersby if left on the surface. One can make a suitable wooden plug for the 6cm diameter holes, but I wanted to cover them with steel plates, a bit like little totems for the home. I made a leaf shaped die a while ago and thought the press might have enough power to stamp that into the plate cold, but it turned out it did not, so I had to get the torch up next to it to heat the metal up until just before the die was forced into the metal. The die wasn't really intended to be stamped into a larger piece, but to have leaf shaped pieces smaller than itself placed on it for stamping. However, it works ok as a kind of Lyme leaf shape.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

15 minutes

Cleats are a useful item to have in the memory chest. Ripping a length of timber with the circular saw set at 45 degrees gives you two pieces of timber that can be used to interlock in many ways. You can attach one to a wall to hang a cupboard or bracket onto etc etc.
I find the gas saver a really useful addition to my tool set, but I can not justify buying another for when I need to use the torch up by the press. So I spent 15 minutes sawing up some bits of wood to make it a simple matter to detach the saver and move it up to the press area without needing to unscrew anything.
The top picture shows the saver in its usual spot, the mounting plate on the back of it needs to drop a further five centimeters for it to be set in place.

This shows the back of the mounting plate and the cleat on the 'wall' that it interlocks with.

This is the pillar block it slots into up by the press. Aside from having to detach the quick release gas nozzles it is a simple matter to move the saver where I need it.
The other addition to the device a while ago was the piezo electric sparker from an old stove that means I don't have to hunt around for a lighter for the pilot light, just flick the arm on the sparker to light it up. I don't know why the thing didn't come with one already fitted.
So what is gas saver?
When you use a torch that has two gas supplies, oxygen and some fuel gas you light the fuel gas and then turn on the oxygen to get the kind of flame you want. This is a pain. The gas saver has a hooked arm on which you hang your torch, the arm is attached at its base to two valves that shut off the two supplies of gas I the right timing. So you lift the torch from its rest pas the nozzle by the pilot flame and it springs to life with the flame you want, then when you are done you rest the lit torch on the hook and it turns off while you are busy doing whatever operation the heat was used to allow you to do. When working steel you use heat a lot and when you work all kinds of other stuff as I do lighting up a forge for a few hours is too much argy bargy, so this device makes it very easy to take on a small project with a light heart and almost no setup time.
Oh, if you look at the top picture there is a sooty looking sheet of metal above where the torch sits, the flame does take a second to go out, so this is a heat shield to avoid some of the fire risk. There is a fire extinguisher within easy reach too.