Jack’s Walk

Just a hole?

Jack and I went to the woods today hoping to see Drucilla and Murray from the Stone Tribe, but we couldn’t find them. Jack followed their scent to a hollowed out area in a log and told me he thinks they’ve gone inside. Inside? I told him it doesn’t look large enough for anything to hide inside. Jack took another sniff and said he was sure they went inside and he was just as sure that they hadn’t come back out. I bent down to take a closer look and could see that the opening was large enough for the Stones to pass into, but it was not large enough for them to hide inside. I grabbed a stick and poked into the hole. Surprisingly, the stick was almost a foot in before it hit the end of the tunnel, but at that point it felt solid all around and there were no Stone people hiding from my probe. Jack thinks it might be a corridor or a secret tunnel and that my poor human senses are too dull to find it. I couldn’t argue with that and there didn’t seem to be much point in hanging around so we went back to the path and hurried the rest of the way around because rain clouds were moving in.

The Art of Book Design: The Epicurean

Today’s book comes to us from Marcus’ collection (stderr) and it’s a classic. Published in 1920, the book is a complete culinary encyclopedia written by a master chef. Its art deco binding is beautiful and being a first edition, the book is quite rare. It’s in excellent condition, too, with its colours still bright and its tactile cover still inviting. It looks delicious.

Charles Ranhofer. The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art. Including… a Selection of Interesting Bills of Fare of Delmonico’s, from 1862 to 1894. Chicago, Hotel Monthly Press, (1920).

The book  has been republished countless times since 1920 and remains a comprehensive guide to cooking and entertaining, The book contains 800 illustrations, including some that are full-page. I’ve included a sampling below the fold.

The book is available to read at The Internet Archive.

[Read more…]

Jack’s Walk

I think it makes the park look like the Shady Acres Cemetery ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack asked to go to the park this morning. He said something about smelling pee or leaving pee to smell, but I wasn’t really listening and I might have that wrong. Anyway, I couldn’t think of a reason not to go to the park, so we grabbed some water and off we went. We aimed ourselves toward the gazebo because I wanted to check out the progress of the renovation to the small pond. The city has had it walled off for weeks and I was very curious to find out what they were doing. Well, they’re finished, but….they removed the pond and replaced it with a rock. It’s a nice enough rock, I suppose. It’s big and it has burbling water at its head that cascades in a fake waterfall sort of way, but it looks to me as if it belongs in a cemetery and it won’t have fish or frogs or tadpoles. Damn.

Tree Tuesday

One of my favourite perspectives for photographing trees is looking up, way up, because a tall tree silhouetted against the sky is majestic. In winter their uppermost bare branches create beautiful patterns in the sky that look sculptural to me. Some trees, though, create sculptural bare spaces in the summer, too, through a phenomenon known as “crown shyness.”

If you look up toward certain types of towering trees—including eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch—you may notice a unique phenomenon: the uppermost branches don’t touch. Known as “crown shyness,” this natural occurrence results in rupture-like patterns in the forest canopy that seem to perfectly outline the trees’ striking silhouettes.

Numerous scientists have been studying crown shyness since the 1920’s and several theories have been put forward, but no one knows for certain what causes it.

One possibility is that it occurs when the branches of trees (particularly those in areas with high winds) bump into each other. Another suggested explanation is that it enables the perennial plants to receive optimal light for photosynthesis. Perhaps the most prominent theory, however, is that the gaps prevent the proliferation of invasive insects.

My favourite theory is the one that postulates the trees are trying to avoid bumping into one another. It seems so polite and I can imagine woody conversations along the lines of “oops – so sorry old chap – didn’t mean to crowd you. I’ll just move over here.”

I think it’s stunning and hope I get a chance to see it someday. If you’re lucky enough see it, please take a photo and share.

Here’s one last photo from the story, but I encourage you to check out the full story and look at all the photos. The link is below.

The full story and more photos are at: My Modern Met

My thanks to rq for sending this story my way.

Jack’s Walk

Welcome back, Ranger ©voyager, all rights reserved

Today Jack and I stopped to say hello to one of our favourite horses who is finally out of the barn and back in the field again. We call him Ranger, but that isn’t his real name. We don’t know what his real name is so Ranger will have to do. In the past I’ve tried giving him a few other names, but none of them suited him at all. He is not a Mr. Ed nor is he a high-ho Silver and away. He’s definitely not a Secretariat or a Man O’ War and I’m pretty sure he’s not the Trigger type, either. Perhaps someday he’ll come closer and whisper his name to me, but in the meantime I’ll keep trying to guess. Ranger works for now, but it isn’t quite right either. Maybe one of you has a better guess.

My first Commission – Part 2 – Conjunction of Projects.

I did not expect to get a commission this early. I am not quite there yet to be able to make a good quality knife in a reasonable time. I am confident I can get the “quality” part right, but time – definitively not. My original plan was to perfect my manufacturing process with the kitchen knives, which, if you remember, I have left this spring at a phase where the outlines of the blades were established, but nothing else.

But I need to work on both projects now because apart from the time I also need to use my resources – electricity, propane gas and charcoal – in a more economically savvy manner. That means hardening multiple blades in one go for example. And that means I have to establish the primary bevel grind on the commissioned knife as well as on the kitchen knives so I can harden and temper all those blades together.

But the whole point of the kitchen knife project was to develop a viable manufacturing process, and establishing the primary bevel was the part where I knew I have to develop and build a fixture first. You have seen my very first attempt. It did work, but not very time-effectively, I wasted about a minute each time I needed to flip or change the blade. That is a lot, considering that for the basic grind I need to go through five belts on both sides. It was clear I need some way to hold the blade steady, but being able to dismount and re-mount it quickly.

The second attempt was this.

Failed fixture. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The idea was that the hinge and two screws will allow me to set the tilt, and the knife-blank can go into the slot where it will be held by the levered screw. It did and did not work. That is, it worked for one knife and then it broke. The problem was moisture which caused the wood to deform and split. But even without that, fixing and releasing the blade was still not as easy as I would like it to be. I got an idea on how to improve this design, and I already bought the materials to try it out, but then I got sick and everything got put on hold for a few months as you know. All I could do was to think about it.

And then my parent’s hard drive died and I got the idea to use those strong neodymium magnets. But for that, I need first to develop a system on how to switch them on/off, and that needs more time than I can spare right now for fooling around. The customer is not in a hurry to get the knife – they know I still have my day job and that I can only do this in my spare time – but still I think I should not strain their patience. So I needed a fixture, fast.

Luckily I got an idea utilizing things that I already have – the first attempted fixture and a few cheap, weak magnets. There is a way to make weak magnets a lot stronger, at the cost of reach – by concentrating the magnetic field to one side with two slabs of iron/mild steel. It is also possible to make longer arrays with this system.

Magnets and pieces of steel. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

So I took six of those cheap magnets and cut nine pieces of mild steel exactly as long as the magnets, but a few mm wider. Then I covered a piece of steel with masking tape and glued the magnets and steel together into three blocks, each consisting of two magnets and three pieces of steel, with the magnets facing each other with the same pole. That means the magnets oppose each other in the middle of the array, forcing the magnetic field of each magnet to the side.

Magnets arrays stacked and glued together. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

The masking tape has stopped the magnets from glueing onto the steel, and the steel was there to get nice alignment on the backside of the arrays. The frontside has the steel pieces overlap a bit, and the spaces were filled with epoxy and sawdust mixture.

Spaces filled with epoxy. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Whilst the epoxy was curing, I took the first wooden fixture and attached a long strip of aluminum to it for the spine of the knife to rest against, and I chiseled out three spaces for the magnet arrays to be glued into. After the epoxy has cured I ground the front faces nice and flat and glued the arrays into the wooden block, again with using a piece of steel covered with masking tape to hold all three on one plane. I used a lot of fast curing epoxy that day, all the while completely forgetting to take pictures of the process. So the next picture is the finished fixture with a knife blank attached to it.

The fixture with knife blank attached. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

To get the tilt the fixture has four screws on the downside (up in the picture, not visible).

And the fixture works.  The magnet arrays are strong enough, but not as strong as neodymium magnet arrays, so it is still possible to comfortably detach the blade by hand. It allows me to apply a lot more even pressure on the blank, for a longer time without cooling it because I do not burn my fingers (temperature not being of concern at this stage). There is still room for improvement – the aluminium stop is a bit too fat for kitchen knives, the screws for tilting do not provide stable enough support and they are a bit finicky to get right. But you can see it allows for making nice, flat and even grind.

Established primary bevel. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Added bonus is, that after two hours of grinding not only did I do more work than before, but also my fingers hurt a lot less because the fixture gives my hands more material to hold onto. I am definitively going to use this a lot, and perhaps there will be other uses for this concept as well. I have an idea for sharpening gizmo in my head for about a year by now…

Mystery Fossil Identified

Mystery fossil, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Mystery fossil, root end, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Remember this? When I posted it I thought it might be a dinosaur tooth, but several commentators (Petern, Avalus, kestrel, Jazzlet) suggested it might be coral of some sort. It was Oggie, though, who took the time to look it up and told me it was

 think it is a rugose coral. Middle Ordovician to late Permian. Yet another victim of the PT extinction event – comment section Is this a Dinosaur Tooth?

Well, Oggie was absolutely right. I sent the photos off to The Royal Ontario Museum and they concur. Although they can’t say with certainty without seeing the piece in person, they suggest that it is horn coral, of the order rugosa from the Ordovician period. Mystery solved!

Thanks to everyone for your help and suggestions.