Speedwell, Veronica

Our weekly flowers from Nightjar are here, and they look frosted with fairy dust.

Veronica persica or winter speedwell. These tiny blue flowers measure about one centimeter and are very common here in winter, especially in cultivated fields. They are so small to the naked eye that I never noticed how beautiful and shiny they are before seeing their photos on the computer.

Veronica, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

New Forge Build – Start

The lining inside my portable mini forge is starting to fall apart, and instead of repairing it I have decided to build a completely new one. I have observed a few problems with the old one, how to achieve the best circulation of the hot gasses etc, and I think I can do a better job at it now than I did then.

I started with a rummage around my junk-pile. I thought about the hows and whats and I selected a few pieces of steel v-profile, a few treaded rods with matching nuts & washers and a long piece of stainless chimney duct. Then I made a sketch (sorry for the grime, it occurred to me to make the pictures only after  I have done all the work).

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

It is slightly bigger than the previous one, but it should still be easily portable. And the fireclay bricks fixed at the front and back will save me some time preparing for my work. I hope. I see no reason why it should not work as expected, but proof of the pudding is always in the eating. In my previous job, I have always reminded engineers that reality, not their expectations, is the ultimate arbiter of what works and how.

After I was done with the sketch, I started to make a list of parts. I have decided to not weld it together, but to use screws. Partly because my welding sucks big time, partly because the fireclay bricks are all miss-shapen and of different sizes and I wanted to have a bit of room to play and partly I reasoned that if it all goes south, I will be able to disassemble it easier. This has meant however that I had to ad a lot of nuts, screws, and washers and that has proved to be a bit of a problem. A lot of the M8 nuts and screws in my junkpile were rusty beyond rescue and I had trouble getting all I need.

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

However, I have managed to get everything I need without having to go shopping. I cut the steel profiles to size, wire-brushed them, drilled holes, then filed some of the holes to an oval shape in order to be able to adjust the size of the holders for fireclay bricks and I assembled it to try it out. It seemed to work alright, so today I disassembled it all again. Then I degreased every profile thoroughly with acetone and I spray-painted them with silver stove paint (not the duct, since that is already stainless and the paint would probably not hold on it anyway). When the paint dried, I could finally assemble the whole thing together.

Here it is.

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

Today I have made the mold for the inside – the actual chamber and the in- and outlet. This time with my old trusty method “just wing it, mate”. Tomorrow I hope to fill it with refractory cement.

I will post about how that went.

A Knife for my Brother

I did not manage to finish a knife for my brother’s 50 birthday last year, for I nearly hacked off my finger with a hatchet. So I am rectifying the issue this year.

This is the blade that was hardened when I was working on the rondel dagger. It is not a perfect blade, aesthetic-vise. I messed up the polish a few times and I had to eventually stop trying to correct it otherwise the knife would turn into a small razor. It is a good universal kitchen knife, very good cutter, I am just not happy with the surface finish. But it is either this or nothing and this year I want to give my brother a knife I know he wants. He is going to appreciate it even with the flaws.

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

I tried to make up for the flaws with the handle, so I have used a piece of partially rotten lilac branch that I have harvested last fall. It is just stunningly beautiful wood and this is probably the prettiest knife handle I have made so far. The wood is rock-hard with tiny pores (lilac is one of those woods that can take 1000 grit polish without dirtying) and would probably hold up well even without the boat lacquer coating. But it was partially rotten, so the outlying regions were not only discolored, but also softer, so I soaked it in boat lacquer to stabilize it. With the coating, it should be near indestructible.

The lilac-colored heartwood will probably age into dark brown over the years, but it might take a really long time since the branch was already several years dead when I cut it off.

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

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

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

How to Make a Soft Buffing Brush Wheel

    1. Materials: Threaded rod or long screw, two matching nuts and at least two washers. The bigger the washers the better, to spread the load more evenly over a broader area. Further, you will need some sturdy paper and very sharp scissors or a razor. And the final ingredient is a lot of soft, thin string, at best some sort of linen or cotton.

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

    2. Cut several (in my case it was 24) identical semi-circles out of the sturdy paper, with the radius of the desired buffing wheel.

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

    3. Divide the semicircles into pairs and wrap each pair evenly with the thread so that approximately 60% of the paper is covered. It is good to wrap each pair in approximately the same amount of turns.

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

    4. Prepare one nut and one washer on the rod a few cms from the end.
    5. Pull string between the paper of one of the semicircles and tie it around the threaded rod as close to the washer as possible. You probably won’t be able to tighten it properly yet, but it is good to have it at least somewhat secured.

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

    6. Cut the string at the outer rim of the semicircles, remove the paper and tighten the thread around the metal rod properly. Twist carefully the threaded rod to pull the whole thing close to the washer.

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

    7. Repeat steps 5-6 for the rest, try to space the thread tassels around the rod as evenly as possible.
    8. Cap it with the second washer and nut and tighten the nuts. Be careful not to over-tighten them, it might shear the threads.
    9. Trim any threads exceeding the radius.
    10. Enjoy your soft buffing brush wheel.

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

I did not actually need to do this, but I had some rubbish thread that I have no better use for, I cannot spend too much time in my workshop yet for I would either freeze or burn through more wood than I can afford, and this was a fun way to spend an hour. It works a treat for buffing up lacquered or oiled handles, I will probably make several more to use with various grades of buffing compounds, but I need to buy or make the big washers, since I only had these two.


Jack’s Walk

See you in March. Photo by Janet B.

I’m leaving for Mexico tomorrow and won’t be back until the end of the month, so after today Jack’s Walk is on vacation until March 2. I’m going to a place called Jocotepec to help a friend pack up her house. She and her husband lived there for 12 years, but he died 2 years ago and Janet moved back home. She’s sold her house there and we’re going down to finish the paperwork and pack up the last of her things. It won’t be all work, though. We have a few interesting field trips planned, including an Iguana Park, a pyramid and a mud bath! We’ll also be going to Manzanillo for a few days because I’ve never seen the Pacific Ocean and we could both use a little beach time. I’ll share the photos when we get home, but you may get the odd Postcard From Mexico while I’m away. No promises, though. I’m ready for a break.

I can promise that The Art of Book Design will be here every day as usual and I thought that Jack’s absence would be a good time to put up the next part of my Russia series, so there will be 2 or 3 posts published about our stay in Uglich. Be sure to look for those. I’ll see you all in March.

Tree Tuesday

Today’s tree story is about another victim of the cult of Greed. Developers, building artificial islands for luxury resorts, are buying mature coconut trees from farmers, but their removal and relocation has many people worried.

Kaashidhoo is one of the largest of the 1,192 islands that make up the Maldives archipelago, but unlike many other islands, it does not teem with sunbathing Europeans. Its broad dirt roads are often deserted, flanked by pink Maldivian roses, mango-orange impatiens, and papaya and banana plants. The main occupation of the islanders is cultivating coconut and other tropical produce that can be sold in Malé, the Maldivian capital.
But lately, the local economy has been thrown out of balance. Crater-like holes have begun to appear across the island, some filled with dry leaves and others left as barren pits. These bald patches are the places where mature coconut trees used to stand tall. In the last year, Kaashidhoo farmers have sold hundreds of trees to new luxury resorts on nearby artificial islands.

While some locals are grateful for the newfound income—$20 to $100 for each tree—others worry that beach erosion has intensified since the trees started getting uprooted. They see this as a fragile ecosystem threatened by the proliferation of luxury resorts. “It’s a huge issue,” says Ibrahim Naeem, Director General of the Maldives Environmental Protection Agency. “Importing coconut palm trees is prohibited in the Maldives, so they have to rely on residential islands.”

As time has gone on, environmental changes have set in.

Yet as the year went by, and more coconut trees disappeared, Jameel says that many locals grew concerned. Coral islands like Kaashidhoo are highly dynamic, constantly adjusting and dancing to the idiosyncrasies of wind, tides, and relentless waves. “Everyone has observed far more erosion around the beaches. That’s what we end up talking about most of the time,” Jameel says. In response, she joined a non-governmental organization called Young Leaders, to spread awareness about environmental issues on the island.

Also, once these areas are developed, locals are encouraged to stay away, and many of the benefits that they were promised from development have never materialized. Environmental groups are now co-ordinating campaigns to strengthen and enforce the laws, and they’re using the #mvtreegrab. I usually forget to Twitter, but today I will, and I’ll add that hashtag. There are plenty of pretty pictures with the story, so go have a look… if you can stomach another bad news story.

story via: Atlas Obscura

Jack’s Walk


Prelude to a shake  ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack isn’t happy today. I brought my suitcase upstairs to begin packing, and Jack knew something was up right away.

“Are we going to see Grandma in Montreal?” he asked.

“No, no, we’re not Jack,” I replied. I saw a shadow pass over his eyes but he sat quietly for a pause before he said,

“Are we going all the way to the east coast?”

“No, Jack,” I said. “Just mummy is going away this time. I’m going to Mexico with Aunt Janet.”

I know Jack doesn’t like it when I’m away, so I’ve been keeping the trip quiet. I didn’t want to spoil more days than necessary.  Typically, Jack is very zen, and he doesn’t often get emotional, but I heard a catch in his voice as he asked,

“How long will you be gone, mummy?”

“13 days, Bubba. We’re going to pack up Aunt Janet’s house because she’s sold it. And since we’ll be near to it, Aunt Janet and I are going to go to the beach, so I can see the Pacific Ocean. I’ve only seen it in pictures,” I said.

“13 days is a long time! And you’re going to the beach without me! I’ve never seen the Pacific Ocean either.” He was starting to sound a bit petulant.

“I know, it sucks, Bubba. I wish you could come with me, but you’d need to fly on an airplane, in a crate, away from Mummy, and I know you wouldn’t like that.” We’d had this same conversation when I went to Russia.

“I would be afraid of that….” then a longish pause and, “How far away is Mexico and the Pacific Ocean? Is it as far away as the east coast? Is the ocean as big as our ocean?”

“It’s a lot farther away, Jack. If we drove, it would take almost a week to get there.”

“A whole week. That’s really far away.”

“Yup, and it’s bigger than our ocean, which is the North Atlantic Ocean. A lot bigger. The Pacific is the biggest ocean on the entire planet. Here, let’s sit down with the Atlas, and I can show you. After that, I’ll show you pictures of where I’m going.”

And so we spent the rest of our afternoon looking at maps and pictures and talking about my trip. Eventually, I started packing, and Jack got quiet again. Finally, he said,

“I’m going to miss you mummy, and it isn’t fair for you to go to the beach without me, but… I hope you have a good time, and I hope you bring me home a nice present. Maybe something that smells like the beach. Also, Mummy, I don’t think you should take those shoes. You’re clumsy in those shoes. And you’ll trip if you wear the Palazzo pants. What else have you put in there?”

Sheesh, why do men always think they can comment on a woman’s clothing?”