Bonsai for Beginners – Part 4 – Another Bit of Tree Physiology

Previous part.

This bit is, alas, often not discussed in bonsai literature as much in detail as it should too. Some books mention it in passing, some do not mention it at all. The talk is about types of tree growth. (note – the used terminology is my own, I have long since forgotten the official technical terms and anyway I am too lazy to search for them in foreign language)

There are three basic types that every bonsaist needs to be aware of, and it is vital to know which type each of your plants has because they determine what kind of care they require to get turned into a bonsai and survive the procedure.

1 – Continuous growth.

This does not mean that the plant grows continuously throughout the year, although usually when a plant does grow the whole year, it has this type of growth. But the growth might slow down or stop completely in certain conditions, like drought or cold or insufficient daylength. However, when the growth slows or stops, it does so without any apparent change in the plant’s physiology. No special structures develop, the plant just stops growing and when the conditions get right again, it continues. The “buds” are simply a bundle of small leaves/needles bunched up together.

In temperate regions, typical representatives of this type of growth are some evergreen conifers, like junipers or thujas. It is most typical for many subtropic trees – citruses, olives, and hibiscus. And of course tropical plants and succulents, like a ficus and money tree. This type of growth have mostly evergreens, although there are deciduous plants with it – for example, russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia) and fig tree (Ficus carica), but they are the exception, not the rule.

2 – Continuous growth with a hibernating stage.

During the season, these plants just grow like the first type, adding leaves to their twigs continuously and growing in length. But when the conditions start to signal the end of the growing season, not only do they stop growing, they create specialized wintering buds. These buds then contain a relatively undifferentiated beginning of the next twig. When the hibernation ends, the buds shed their protective layers (modified leaves) and from them emerge twigs that again start to grow in length and adding leaves as much as they can manage.

This type of growth is typical for deciduous trees in temperate regions, like willows, poplars, maples, hazels and many more. I am not aware of any evergreen with this type, maybe holy (Illex sp.).

3 – Growth in spurts.

Some trees take the hibernation stage to the next level. The wintering buds do not contain just the beginning of a new twig, but a complete one with non-differentiated buds. At the beginning of the growing season these whole twigs emerge from the buds, they stretch in lengths and gain girth, but they do not add any new leaves or buds – the number of those has been determined previous year already.

This is typical for firs, pines, spruces and many other coniferous trees of temperate regions. From the top of my head, I only can remember one deciduous tree with this growth type – beech (Fagus sp.).

For a beginner, types 1 and 2 are the best option. Those are comparatively easy to manage, they mostly heal easily from pruning and the pruning itself can be often done at almost any time of the year or in wide enough window not to need to fuss about it too much.

Type 3 is difficult, and thus alas another point against pines. These types of trees cannot have twigs trimmed just anytime and anywhere, they often require being cut during very specific time otherwise the next year’s buds will form where you do not want them.

The worse in this regard are spruces, whose growth is nearly completely unmanageable. That is why you won’t see many very old spruce bonsai trees. More on that later.

The Art of Book Design: The Story of Jack; A Tale of the North

J. Horace Lytle. The Story of Jack: A Tale of the North. Dayton, O., Miami publishing co., 1917.

The Jack of the story is a terrier, but today’s book is in honour of my Jack, who is having a birthday today. Jack is a leap year baby, so this is only the fourth official birthday he’s ever had. In reality, my baby is twelve today and I don’t know where the years have gone. I haven’t had a chance to read the story yet, but the book is delightfully illustrated.


via: The Library of Congress  

From a File to a File Guide

I do not know where and when, but I have gotten a broken and rusty file that was too small to make a usable knife, but I thought I might find a use for it. Then, somehow, somewhere, I got another, very similar one. Almost as if I CTRL+C CTRL+V it.

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

I even nearly forgot about both, but the learning batch of kitchen knives is giving me some grief and I realized that among other things I do need a file guide for making ricassos if I am to make knives reasonably fast and comfortably (all 12 knives have mistakes now, but their whole purpose was learning and it was to be expected – these will be given out for free anyway).

And since I have to heat my workshop nowadays to do anything, I have used that opportunity and I tossed them both into the fire. I got them nice red-glowing and I let them cool down very slowly in the stove.

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

The next bit was pretty straightforward – I cut off the tangs with angle-grinder and I ground the rest flat-ish on the belt grinder with a pretty chewed-up 40 grid ceramics belt and nothing more. I do not have grinding attachment for flat surfaces yet, so I had to grind simply against the platen, but I have managed a flatness that I estimate about ~0,1 mm – there was a tiny bit of light coming through when I put them against each other and looked against a lightbulb – which is definitively good enough for its purpose.

Next, I have drilled two pairs of 5 mm holes down the center of one piece,  10 and 22 mm from each end, and I copied the holes into the other piece. To keep the holes reasonably aligned I have first drilled one hole, then used a 5 mm drill bit to keep the pieces aligned, drilled the opposing hole and so forth.

The four holes were not perfectly in line, but that does not matter that much and in the end, it has proven a bit of a blessing – the slight miss-positioning serves as a visible sort-of poka-yoke. However, I had to make temporary marks with a file on both pieces to keep their alignment in check without having to fumble each time I take them apart during the work.

With four 5 mm holes in both pieces, I have cut M6 threads in the inner pair on one piece and the outer pair on the other. The other four holes I have widened to 6 mm and chamfered the edges with an 8 mm bit.

I have found two M6 screws with wide-socket heads in my drawer, but I could not find any 6 mm steel stock. I thought I have one, but I thought wrong. I also could not find any M6 screws that had the non-threaded part thick enough for a good fit. So I had to make one. I started with a 6 mm thick old, bent and rusty nail and I cut out the approximately 100 mm straight part. Then I have ground it down to 5.8-5.9 mm using running slack-belt on my belt sander and spinning it with a cordless drill. And then I polished it a bit with old and used-up trizact A-65 belt.

Of course, staged, neither device was running for the photo-op. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I cut the resulting round piece in half and then came the most challenging part – to cut about 4 mm of M6 thread into one end of each bit. I failed at this, both shafts have the thread a tiny bit at an angle. I guess one of my future projects will be making a jig for cutting precise concentric threads, cause I certainly cannot manage it by hand.

But I could assemble the whole thing after that and it worked, although I cannot fasten the leading-rods too much due to the badly cut threads. But when assembled, it had no sideway wobble and that is all I needed. So I have assembled it, tightened the screws and ground the outside-facets into perfect alignment. And here is the nearly finished thing, gleaming in my grubby hand.

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

Now for hardening. I did not know whether the files were surface hardened or thorough-hardened, and of course, I had no knowledge of the carbon content of the nail I used for the leading rods, only that it was very, very soft. And even so, I wanted to make it as hard as I possibly can.

Therefore for the hardening, I did not go for simple heat-quench. I went for carbonitriding, which is the hardest I can make a steel surface in home-setting. For this, I took the whole thing apart again and I put the two flat-pieces and two rods into a steel tube together with a mixture that would, when heated, enrich the surface with both carbon and nitrogen.

Commercially this is usually done with various cyanide salts, but not only do I not have those. I don’t even want to have them. I have the training to handle cyanide properly, bot I do not have the means and the desire to do so. Luckily many ordinary things will do the same – leather scraps, bone and hoof dust, hide glue, soy flour etc. Anything organic that contains a mixture of carbon and nitrogen compounds. But I have not used any such improvised mixtures, I went for a 1:1 mixture of urea and dehydrated sodium carbonate. These two chemicals react together to produce sodium cyanate when heated. Despite the very similar name, this chemical is not nearly as toxic as sodium cyanide – its LD50 is about half of that of kitchen salt. And it works for carbonitriding.

I compacted the salt mix around the parts as well as I can.

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

Next, I put a cap from an old pea-can on it – it need not be air-tight – put it in the forge and the whole assembly went into the fireplace, because the first circa 20 minutes it produces rather noxious smoke that I am not too keen on inhaling.

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

It sat there for two hours with the burner on the lower setting. Temperature between 600-800 °C is enough for this and after two hours I should have a hardened layer of at least 0.2 mm.

When the time was up, I took the container out of the forge, took the lid off and dipped its contents into a bucket of cold water. A slight explosion took me a bit by surprise – either not all salt has evaporated yet or a piece of glowing hot fireclay dropped out of the forge (my forge, unfortunately, died in the process, the inner lining has finally disintegrated completely), but it was just a little bang and nothing dangerous.

All the pieces were successfully hardened, although one flat piece developed a very slight bend – a few tenths of an mm. But I could still assemble everything together, so I did that. I tightened the screws and tempered the whole thing for two half-hour cycles in boiling water – I wanted to relieve some of the stress so it is not as brittle as glass, but I also want it to retain as much hardness as possible.

A few passes with scotch-brite wheel cleaned all the crud off and buffing with abrasive pastes polished the scratches enough for a bit of protection against pitting corrosion.

And that is it, I now have a file guide. Despite my lax attitude to precision, it does not wobble but it opens/closes easily, the surfaces are hard enough for ordinary files not scratching them and it is from recycled materials, which is my favorite kind of material to use for such thing.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size


The Art of Book Design: The Renewal of Life, How and When to Tell the Story to the Young

Margaret Warner Morley, The Renewal of Life, How and When to Tell the Story to the Young, Chicago, A.C. McClurg & co., 1906.

This book notes in its introduction that any child old enough to ask a question is old enough to know the answer, the real answer, which I find enlightened for the period. Ms. Morley notes that parents only do their children harm by withholding truthful information and that it is best to give geared to age responses that the parent may elaborate on as the child matures.

via: The Internet Archive

Resin Art: Fitting a Square Peg in a Round hole

Yes, I’ve been productive last week. Last night I sanded down some pieces I had cast some days ago, finally revealing their true shape. One piece contains some of Marcus’ burl and I wanted to try something new and I’m quite happy with the result, unlike with yesterday’s catastrophe.

The piece started out as your basic square block. I drew the oval shape I wanted it to be on the back and the front and then set to shape it with the belt sander (this time without also sanding my hand in the meantime. It’s a nice scar I got myself the last time). After I had the general shape I set to creating a dome so it would become a regular cabochon. I’m sure you have already spotted the problem here: taking out one sharp edge with the belt sander creates two more, so I only worked out the basic shape and then went to hand sanding.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is what I got after the belt sander. You can see the shape and also the deep, deep scratches. Now sanding paper creates the same problem as the belt sander, unless you keep the piece still and move the sanding paper. I prefer a different method for smoothing edges: First I like working with sanding fleece anyway. For the rough sanding it’s much more durable than the sanding paper. It#s also thick so it creates naturally smooth curves. Once the rough sanding was done I simply placed my wet sanding paper on top of a piece of fleece and kept sanding. It’s a hell lot of work, but I can tell you, the moment when you wash off the grit and for the first time it becomes really transparent and shiny? Pure magic! With this piece that happened at a 3000 grit and got “fixed” with abrasive paste.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Now I have to figure out how to turn it into a necklace…

But wait, there’s more!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This little fellow is a scrap of pear wood. It is part of a longer piece. the top got turned into something else and the bottom got turned into this. Isn’t that wood gorgeous?

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I tried to give it roughly a crystal shape, but it would not hold the edges. I’m not sorry, I love it the way it is. Also, it’s shape just nice to hold.

The last piece is oak wood. I experimented with some cheap pearl pigment and I quite like the effect:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Since I had some problems with the sticky tape that enclosed the cast getting stuck in the resin I had to take off quite a lot of material, but I am please with the result nevertheless.

The intrinsic link between misogyny and white supremacy

On the thread about the recent right wing terrorist attack in Germany, we had a slight disagreement about the role of misogyny in that particular attack.  I decided to give that an extra post for several reasons. For one I didn’t want to get into that discussion on that thread, when we are all in basic agreement about the fascist nature of that attack. For another I don’t want to play “oppression olympics”, making this attack on young migrants some sort of white women’s woe. And finally I think it’s important to talk about these matters in a more general way, to raise awareness about the links between misogyny, white supremacy and how the former is a “gateway drug” for the latter.

The terrorist attack in Hanau shows many similarities to other recent right wing terrorist attacks: El Paso, Christchurch, Halle. The terrorist talked openly about their murder fantasies, they talked about exterminating groups of people, they tried to broadcast their attacks for maximum effect. And they were also misogynists. Sorry that the link is in German, I hope Google translate is passable. This is no coincidence. White supremacists are by nature concerned with two things:

  1. Making white babies themselves with good white women. The Hanau terrorist detailed how he “suffered” from not being able to find a good white woman (claiming that some Deep State organisation prevented him from doing so). this is a common thread among many right wingers. It’s not a bad joke when you say sexually frustrated men are a risk group. There’s a very clear correlation between a lack of women and right wing success in East Germany.  In those rural areas with few opportunities women tend to leave. They are better educated and also work in professions that are needed everywhere. They leave behind men who we tend to call “Wendeverlierer”, the losers of the reunification: They lost their jobs or didn’t find a job in an area that they deem worthwhile. Even now that many of them do have a job, there’s still no woman who dreams of living in a dying small town in the middle of nowhere.

These men usually have very “traditional views” on relationships and family life. They’re stuck somewhere in the 1960s (interestingly in the 1960s of West Germany) while the women are in the 2020s. It’s hard not to feel a pang of sympathy when they talk about missing things many of us take as ordinary things: a partner, a family, an intact personal support system, until you remember that they also think they are owed these things by women and that it’s feminism and the immigrants’ fault that they’re not getting it. Which links up to #2

  1. Keeping other men from making babies with the white women they deem their property. The fear of “miscegenation” is strong with them as you can see in these covers from one of the bigger German right wing magazines (I’m sorry you’ll have to open the thing in twitter to see the full pics. Or don’t. They’re racist as fuck):

Men of colour are painted as both sexual predators from whom the white women must be protected, as well as a threat to white men’s access to white women. Especially young muslim men are their object of hatred: They are presumed to have more patriarchal views and societies, they are able to live the life those white men think they are owed, and on top of that they have to pay lip service denouncing those men in order to maintain the mainstream narrative of our societies being superior because “we” “respect” women. It’s quite telling how those who pre 2015 told women they need to dress modestly are now vigorously defending miniskirts.

Young male refugees present an additional danger. Not only do they tilt the gender balance some more, they also embody a lot of the stereotypes those men base their value on. Those young men have often seen war and violence. They had to prove themselves and make it against terrible odds. They are fighters and survivors. In short, they em,body everything those dudes think that men should be and they are not. As we know those men don’t even need to be anywhere close. At the height of the racist Pegida demonstrations there were five protestors for every Muslim in Saxony.

The “men of colour as a threat” is of course also an angle that gets white women attracted to far right groups, though so far they have constantly lower support among women than among men.

I hope these two points demonstrate why white supremacists are also always misogynists. They want a clear hierarchical structure with them at the top and they cannot get this without doing what men everywhere have done for millenia: controlling the fertility of women and others capable of having children. You will not find a white supremacist who is not a misogynist, or one who isn’t against abortion on demand (they aren’t against all abortions, though, let’s remember the recent eugenics debates).

Lastly I would like to come back to something I mentioned at the top: misogyny as a gateway drug. Now I have to formulate this carefully because I don’t want this to come off wrong: In many parts of society it is more acceptable to say misogynist shit than it is to say racist or antisemitic shit. I’m not talking about attitudes, just about the “saying it out loud” part. While many centrist people will quickly shush their own for talking favourably about Hitler, it hardly ever happens when some dude complains about women not fucking them. Or women having a career. German has it’s own horrible word for mothers who do not dedicate 24/7 to their kids: We are “Rabenmütter” raven mothers (which proves they know just as much about ravens as about anybody else). Attitudes like “women are naturally better with children” and “a child needs his mother” are widespread and can act as a gateway into the right wing mindset. A guy who feels lonely can easily get sucked into the world of right wing conspiracies, finally finding the culpable for his own personal woes.

Resin Art: a learning experience

Some time ago I watched a youtube video on making shaker charms with open bezels. Keyword is “a while ago”. It looked simple enough, so I decided to give it a try: you put your bezel onto some tape, add a layer of UV resin and harden that. Then you add your glitter, mix water with some glue, put it into the bezel, freeze it solid, add UV resin to the now solid top, harden, done.

So far, so good. Only that of course it didn’t work out like this, leading to these rather pitiful examples:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The unicorn one is the best of the batch, but still nowhere near acceptable. I figured out a couple of problems myself:

One: I’d overfilled the the bezels. I need to leave space inside for the resin to go. Two, working on three of them at the same time isn’t a good idea. Inevitably condensation happens on the other ones as you’re dealing with the first one. Three, my UV resin is too thick. It’s quite thick anyway and the cold from the frozen bezels makes it impossible to spread quickly and evenly.

While I figured out those three things. One thing remained a mystery: the surface of the ice. If this surface isn’t smooth, you’ll never get a clear resin layer. While I didn’t think the video in question was one of those fake craft videos, I kept wondering about it. Rewatching the video I saw that the person used distilled water, which I think will make quite a difference.

Next try: distilled water.

I’ll also add in another step: Once the water is frozen really, really solid, I’ll put another drop of water on top. It should hopefully create a super smooth surface and also create a barrier between the resin and any glitter that might have floated to the top. Wish me luck.

The Art of Book Design: The Birthday Party

Various Authors. The Birthday Party and Other Stories, A Book for Girls. Boston, T. B. Noonan, 1885.

February is my busy month for birthdays. Today’s birthday belongs to my friend Janet with whom I travelled to Mexico. Today is also the day she closes the sale of her house here. Double congratulations, Janet, dinner’s on me tonight, kiddo. Oh wait, you’re older than me again. Ahem, dinner’s on me tonight, Grandma.

via: The Library of Congress

Russia – Welcome to Uglich

Welcome to Uglich. ©voyager, all rights reserved

When we disembarked in Uglich we crossed a cobblestone bridge into the city where we were greeted by a duo singing a traditional Russian folk song. Their voices were clear and strong, and it was a charming welcome to the first of Russia that we saw outside of the big city of Moscow. On the other side of the bridge, we met our local tour guide who was to take us on a planned tour of the city. Being a tour guide is a noble profession in Russia, and once upon a time, the tour companies had a full-time stable of guides. There have been cutbacks, though, and now the guides all work as private contractors on an as-needed basis. For most of our trip, the guides were outstanding. They were all multi-lingual, friendly, thoroughly professional, and each of them had a comprehensive knowledge of the history and geography of the country. There was one guide, though, that we disliked.

Our Uglich Tour Guide. ©voyager, all rights reserved

This fellow was our guide in Uglich, and everyone in our group was unhappy with his performance. To begin with, he walked too fast. Way to fast for all of us. My friend and I were the youngsters on our cruise, with most of the other people being in their 70’s and 80’s, and everyone struggled to keep up. He also spoke while he was walking, without turning around at all, so that most of us missed what he had to say. We figured out the reason for the rush at the end of the tour, though, when we were taken into a woodcarvers shop and told that we had 15 minutes to look around and buy. We all suspected that the haste at the beginning of the tour was to make sure we had enough time to shop and that some sort of kick-back was likely involved. Working on an as-needed basis is difficult, so we understood the circumstances, but we’d signed up for the “slow” tour (most of the tours had an option for a quick, active group or a slower group with less walking) and this walk was anything but slow. We managed, though. It’s surprising how fast you can go with the right motivation. Turns out that I’m quicker when I’m worried about being left behind and lost in an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language and even the alphabet looks strange. We did have our guide books with us so we could at least recognize what building or church we were passing or were about to visit.


The city of Uglich is first mentioned in the All-Russia Chronicles of the Ipatievsky Monastery of 1148, however, there is archeological evidence that settlements have existed at the site since the First Millenium. The city houses many ancient churches, and we were able to visit three of them. Our tour began with a walk through the main area of churches viewing them from the outside before attending a 3 man a capella concert in a modern building used as a civic centre.

Our first stop after this was at the Transfiguration Cathedral, which is part of the city’s Kremlin (fort). This cathedral was first built in the early 1200s and it’s been rebuilt several times since then. The current church was built in 1713 and it’s the bright yellow building with orange trim and dark green onion domes that greeted us as we came into port. Beside the Church is the Bell Tower, which was erected in 1730.

The Transfiguration Cathedral, Uglich. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Transfiguration Cathedral and Bell Tower ©voyager, all rights reserved

Transfiguarion Bell Tower

Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

We were given a very brief tour of the interior of the church later in the tour, just before being whisked off to the woodshop to buy souvenirs. Our guide told us the church is still in use and, as with all churches in Russia, there are no seats. All worshippers are expected to stand for services, including dignitaries and in previous times, the Aristocracy. Many of these services can go on for 4 hours. Gold was a prevailing detail in almost all of the churches we visited here and throughout Russia and every church has a unique set of icons.

The Icon Wall, Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

Icon Wall, Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

Icon Wall and cupola, Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

That’s it for today. In the next installment, you’ll hear the curious story of Dmitri and see the church built in his honour.






Voila, la Viola

Nightjar has been searching out wildflowers for us,

Viola riviniana or dog-violet. A completely unexpected find, not only because it is too early for wild violets but also because I rarely find completely white dog-violets. And there were only white violets, no signs of any purple ones nearby. I expect that to change in about a month from now.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

©Nightjar, all rights reserved