The Art of Aubrey Beardsley: Le Morte Darthur

This will be my last post from Beardsley’s Morte Darthur, and I’ve saved one of my favourite images for today. The style is more chaotic than most of the illustrations, and I think it’s deliciously dark and frenzied. Enjoy.

Now King Arthur saw the questing beast and thereof had great marvel. Artwork by Aubrey Beardsley: Le Morte Darthur.

Portland – Required Reading

A lot is happening in Portland, and Big Media reports are often unreliable or outright false. Our very own Crip Dyke at Pervert Justice has been on the ground risking her health and well-being to report the reality of the situation to us. This morning her report, Still a step away from Pinkerton’s, but it’s badis especially gut-wrenching, and it should be required reading. Please, if you haven’t already, head on over and share your support.

For some perspective on the reference to Pinkerton’s, Marcus at Stderr shares a historical look at labour protests in the U.S. with an essay titled How to Riot. It’s an in-depth look at the history of how the American government has handled civil unrest, and it’s frightening.

To round out your reading, I recommend Iris Vander Pluym at Death to Squirrels, whose essay A.G.Barr: Crip Dyke is a “violent rioter and anarchist” hijacking the Portland Protests, brings some insight into why what Crip Dyke is doing is so vitally important. The American government is lying to the public, and it is the on-sight reports from citizen journalists that tell the real story.

I share my thanks to all of these voices for the clarity they bring to a complicated issue.

Crip Dyke, please stay safe.


All the Pretty Little Flowers 3: The Downstairs

Poor PZ is still mowing his lawn. Around here Mr regularly sighs “I need to mow the lawn and then we do something else. I like that. I think we will make some hay later in summer in preparation of the degus. For now it’s a pretty wilderness.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Though we should not use that area for feed as there are many raspberries starting their career there right now.

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Jack’s Walk

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Ahem… (singing) Just me and my Shadow, walking down the avenue (not the old, but the new).

Jack wanted to stop for a rest today, and it seemed the perfect time to snap a pic of our footwear.  Jack is sporting his usual handsome greying toes, and I am wearing my feelings on my feet instead of my sleeve.

Storks on the Hunt

Avalus is doing some fieldwork with his new camera and he’s spied this flock of storks. He tells me that they’ve been around for awhile and hints that we may see them again.

©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

All the Pretty Little Flowers 2: The Slopes

As you may recall, our house is built on pretty steep terrain. The ground floor windows in the front are the first floor in the back. From there you have another treeish metres height difference to the garden. last year we had the stairs remodelled, since the old ones were rapidly becoming accidents waiting to happen. The slopes on either side are still steep and this year we started to stabilise the left hand side so we can put a lamppost on top.

The small area created at the top has been sown with “butterfly meadow” and “wildflower mix”. You can buy these seed mixes easily in Germany as many people are trying to bee more friendly. I also always toss a few handful on the rest of the area, which remains in pretty disarray.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The dark side of the pumpkin patch. That area is more or less permanently in shade and this year we just didn’t have the nerve to look for something that would thrive there after the slugs ate the first round of plants. Suggestions welcome. But you can see the structure well.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The pumpkin/squash/courgette patch. they are coming along nicely with several promising plants already. Only I never know what is what. You can also see the bane of my gardening existence: Horsetail. A plant that survived the dinosaurs. Common gardening advice is “nuke it from orbit”. It spreads through rhizomes that are also very fragile and will snap quickly so you’ll never get them all out. But you can make some wonderful fertilizer out of it: put the plants into a bucket with water and let it rot. Stinks like hell, but 100% organic, free and efficient.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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Different Hardening Methods for N690 – Experiment

When I was hardening the blades two days ago, I have tossed in there six cut-offs as well and I have used different methods to quench them. After that I had still one piece left so I have heated that up to the 1050 °C and let it cool in the forge. Then I performed some tests and the results are very interesting.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

These are the samples and methods used (marked by the number of notches on the edge):

0 – left to cool in the forge
1 – untreated
2 – left to cool in the air
3 – quenched between Al plates only
4 – oil
5 – water
6 – AL plates + water + Freezer fro 2 hours

None of the samples were subsequently tempered, so they should be at peak hardness.

With the sample size just 1 piece per method I cannot of course perform too many tests. The idea was to polish the samples – which I did. And already during the polishing, I have noticed that all samples seem to be hardened, except #1.

The next step was supposed to be to etch the surface and look at the structure under a microscope. Well, that did not work at all, and the reasons are a mystery to me. Just as it happened with the knives last time, it happened again here – the electrochemical method worked on some samples perfectly, but completely failed on others. I was unable to solve the problem. Another thing was that my microscope apparently does not have big enough magnification to see a difference between the original steel and the quenched one. I could re-build it and improve it about ten times, but I am still not sure if that would be enough and I do not want to get sidetracked to that now, it would be probably more than one day of work and I have already spent two days having fun instead of working.

So I did what I could with samples of this geometry. First trying to scratch them with my hardness measuring gages .

The sample # 1 could be scratched by the lowest 38 HRC gage, which was to be expected.

All samples except # 1 could not be scratched by the 62 HRC gage, so they are at hardness 62 HRC or more. Which is something I did not expect, especially not of # 0, which was left to cool in the forge – and that took definitively several hours. I was expecting this sample to be harder than the new steel, but not hard enough for a knife – but it evidently is more than enough hard for a knife, hardness 62 is in fact quite excessive.

Secondly, I have tried scratching the samples against each other, and the results became even more interesting. All samples could scratch # 1, as expected. But none could scratch #4 and #4 did scratch all, whilst the remaining five could not scratch each other, so they are all of the same hardness.

Thirdly I have put the sharpest angle of the triangle approx 10 mm into a vise and break it off. #1 has bent easily, as expected, all others have snapped off.

What can I deduce from this? Several things.

  1. Sample #4 was hardened with the method recommended by the manufacturer and did come out as the hardest of them all, possibly somewhere around 63-65 HRC, which is as hard as steel can get. It could be a fluke (remember – sample size 1), but it could be the reason why this method of hardening is recommended. It is not surprising.
  2. From a practical standpoint, the method of quenching seems to be quite inconsequential nevertheless. The oil quenched sample would be brought down a few points in heat treatment anyway and for practical purposes, anything above 51 HRC will be usable with just a bit more edge maintenance, anything above 55 HRC will have reasonable edge retention and above 57 HRC we are in the realm of no reason to complain whatsoever. In this light, the difference between the recommended oil quench and all the other methods seems to be so small as to be trivial and only interesting from a nerd standpoint.
  3. The freezer step does not seem to have done anything for this one piece, but this does not rule it out from use on larger pieces that could not be so thoroughly and consistently heated in my setup. Did not do any harm either.
  4. Although tempering was not tested, this experiment does indicate that it is just not possible to really destroy the edge on this steel by overheating it during grinding/polishing since even cooling it from the 1050°C to room temperature over the course of several hours hardened it very nearly as well as the recommended oil quenching. I will not test tempering temperatures with regard to this specifically since there are graphs to be found on the internet that show already that the hardness of N690 does not get below 56 HRC up to 900°C.
  5. If I want to peen the end of the tang, or do any other work with it, I must be careful to not heat it above the critical temperature at any point in the process. Because once heated above certain threshold, this steel hardens, I cannot prevent it and I probably cannot anneal it again.

It would be interesting to see what is the exact influence on toughness/strength once tempered. I could not find it, so I will have to test it myself. But for that, I will need another sample geometry. So maybe next time.

All in all, the N690 seems to be pretty remarkable steel. It does not have the label (and price tag, otherwise I could not use it) of “super steel”, but it is no wimp either and apparently is not very fussy about the heat treatment, apart from the requirement to heat it above 1050°C.

All the Pretty Little Flowers 1: The frontyard

Pz has been raging and ranting about lawns and lawnmowers and I wholeheartedly agree. It also prompted me to do a bit of bragging about the sheer beauty of not having a lawn. Let’s start with the front yard, which was carefully weeded when we bought the house. Here’s another aspect of those lawn and front yard regulations: To keep them up to “standards” you need time to do it or money to hire somebody else to do it. I quickly reduced weeding to an absolute minimum. Nobody touches a dandelion in MY front yard. One thing that happened quickly was that wild strawberries overtook most of the ground. They do many things at once:

First, they protect the ground from drying out.

Second, they provide flowers for pollinators.

Third, they taste so good.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

In spring I built a plant tower in an empty space that had previously been occupied by some useless evergreen bush that got thankfully eaten by caterpillars. I also planted some regular strawberries there.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Guarded by my little dragons

©Giliell, all rights reserved


If you want to make bees happy, plant lavender. It will also make you happy. Lavender is low maintenance, just cut off the dry stalks in autumn and ok with dry weather. I don’t know if it can survive Minnesota winters.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Probably no German frontyard is complete without a hydrangea. They are lovely, but high maintenance (needing much water, cutting, right ground) and absolutely no good for insects. Like most plants here they are a leftover from the previous owner. I figure that with so many bee friendly plants around I can afford a couple that only look nice.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I have no idea about most of the plants that grow here. They were already well established when we moved in. Some of them have already bloomed long ago. I basically get flowers from March to October.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Also one corner has been taken over by some wildflowers. I like them, the insects like them. We’re good.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Oh, and btw, the next door neighbour has a lawn (I’m not criticising her, she’s 90 and still living all alone). It’s a sad brown area right now and the grass always creeps into my yard which means that I have to do the weeding there.

A Wee Bit of Bee Butt

Story and pictures by Avalus

I noticed earth-bees emerging and vanishing between two stone plates in the paveway in the garden, so I crouched down and waited for the next bee to come out. But the inhabitants were not that sure about the sudden appearance of a strange black block in front of their door and so cautiously just poked their heads out only to retreat again. (first picture and the detail cut out, with a head of a bee eying me suspiciously visible) Then after five minutes or so one of them had enough of the paparazzi, moved out and took off just as I moved in a more comfortable position and so I nearly missed her. As you can see, I just captured her butt :D.

photo 1 ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Photo 1 (detail) ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Photo 2 ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Photo 3 ©Avalus, all rights reserved.