Showing off My Wood – Part 5

I had a very busy October and only now it seems like I will be able to do some work in my workshoppe again. I was able to do some, but not much. Mostly I was working around the garden, harvesting nuts and fruit etceeraaaa. In the end, there was probably over 50 kg of walnuts and I had to spend a few days working with the nutkraken because my father was tired. Long lever or not, it was just too much.

I put 16 kg of shelled nuts aside for oil making and I will probably need to build a better solution for cracking the buggers in future years. We already have two more walnut trees in the garden, so there will only be more work. Although they are probably still quite a few years from fruiting. One is a seedling, now circa 10 years old, and another is a grafted red walnut, two years old.

Over three weeks I have spent two to three days a week taking my mother to and from rehabilitation. It seems to have been worth it. This Wednesday she was finally able to straighten her right leg at the knee to over 75%, which was a huge step up since it was barely 50% two weeks ago. That was indeed a happy moment.

So let’s take a break now and show you the last of my wood collection.

Sweet and Sour Cherry (Prunus avium & Prunus cerassus)

You may remember how I was forced to fell a huge cherry tree in my garden. That tree has warmed us in the winter for over a month and of course, I have also put a lot of wood aside for crafting. This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is highly improbable that more than 10% of this will ever be made into some kind of product. Maybe if I manage to get together some viable process for making cutting boards. And of course, to sell what I already have made, I am getting a bit cluttered.

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Unfortunately, I did not put aside very many long pieces of this wood. There were not many opportunities. But when I was processing all the wood that I have set aside over the years, I have found several long logs of sour cherry and almost miraculously they did not develop very many cracks and neither got they invested with wood borers. So I have also several nice and long-ish prisms of sour cherry wood, two or three bundles like this one. I think those would make very pretty knife blocs and if used as veneer, I could make quite a lot of big ones at that.

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And surprisingly, some of the logs shed the bark quite easily and it too was uninfested and undamaged by bugs in many cases. Thus I have put aside the bark too. I could make it into layered handles (I do not know anyone who has done that with cherry bark). If I do not use it in the end, my inheritors can always burn it for heat.

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Willow (Salix sp.)

One of the pollarded willows in my garden looked kinda sickly so I have decided to fell it. And because the pollarded head was full of knots and twists, almost like burlwood, I put it aside and cut it into prisms. I have also “obtained” probably a willow rootball from the garden of a nearby abandoned former sanatorium, where several trees were cut/uprooted during conservation works and most of the wood was left there to rot. I hit a stone in the rootball blunting my table saw a bit but the wood is at least pretty. The upper and left wood in the picture is the pollarded willow head, and the lower right wood is from the rootball.

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That is all as far as wood goes. I do have some other crafting materials that are intended for use in knives, I will possibly make posts about those later.

Making Walnut Oil

I spend several hours daily now picking walnuts and laying them out in a designated room to dry. Some days “just” one bucket, other days more. And since we did not eat all walnuts from last year yet, I have been thinking about how to process them in a useful way. And I have decided to try to make walnut oil. I have wasted two kg of low-grade walnuts and one kilo of moderately good ones trying to devise a process that works and I did come up with one in the end.

The first try cost me three hours of work, 700 ml of acetone, and resulted in barely 50 ml of oil from 1 kg of shelled walnuts. Not good.

The second try cost me five hours of work, 1400 ml of acetone, and resulted in roughly 150 ml of oil from 1 kg of shelled walnuts. Better, but still not good at all. This second try also resulted in me having a still now. I might make separate posts about that after I test its newest iteration – the first iteration was not very good at recovering the acetone from the solution (acetone is just too volatile) and after I modified it, I found out I don’t necessarily need it anymore.

Because the third try resulted in roughly 500 ml of oil from 1300 g of shelled walnuts after three hours of work and without the use of any chemicals and with minimum use of elektrimcity. And with walnut oil costing around 40€ per liter, that is financially viable since the next batch should be finished faster – I have a functioning process now and there won’t be any fumbling next time.

So, here goes the process:

  1. Drying the shelled walnuts at 45 °C in a fruit dehumidifier for 12 hours. This step is necessary now because the walnuts are freshly collected from the garden and when ground, they do not release oil but make a paste from which the oil is very difficult to extract. My first attempts at drying the nuts for a shorter time (2 h at 80°C or roasting 5 min at 190°C) did not work, thus me trying to extract the oil with acetone. I learned that the important thing is to get the walnuts completely dry, the shelled kernels should rustle when agitated.
  2. Running the dried walnuts through a meat grinder. This picture is from my first attempt but it is representative of how the shredded nuts looked after first grinding in my final attempt too. I am using an old hand-cranked meat grinder because I did not want to use my mom’s kitchen robot for experimentation. I probably won’t use it for this anyway, grinding the nuts is a bit harder than grinding meat and I fear the robot could get damaged. This old thing was made in times when tools were made to last and not break a month after the warranty expires.

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

  3. Running the dried walnuts through the meat grinder again. This time they started to expel some oil already.

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

  4. And finally, I run the thoroughly shredded kernels through another nearly antique kitchen appliance – a hand-cranked juicer. This resulted in 550 g of highly compressed dry matter with some oil residue, and the rest was oil mixed with some fine particles.

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

  5.  Leaving the oil to settle out the particles. It will probably take a few days. I will skim the oil from the top in the meantime and add water for the particulate matter to drop into. I may use the still again to refine the oil further, using some chemicals again, but it can wait for later. For now, I just wait for it to settle. Here you can see how it settled after 24 hours.

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I was not particularly careful about Hi Jean this time. The first 1000 ml of walnut oil (including oil from the first three experimental runs) will be refined and boiled for use as a food-safe wood finish and not for direct consumption. I do not have personal experience with walnut oil yet but allegedly it has advantages over linseed oil. It has a lower viscosity and thus seeps easier into the wood. It dries quicker. And it does not yellow with age as much as linseed oil does so it should not discolor the wood as much as linseed oil does, making it useful for lighter woods as well as dark ones. I intend to make several end-grain cutting boards at some point in the future.

However, I have cleaned all the appliances thoroughly now and next time I am making the oil, I will also make 1 l of cold-pressed oil – or maybe even more – for consumption. Walnut oil is a bit of a luxury foodstuff so we have no experience with its culinary use either but I am sure we will find some use for it in our kitchen should we have it. And an advantage of 1 l of oil is that it takes a lot less storage space than 5 kg of unshelled walnuts or 3 kg of shelled ones. Making it does not cost nearly as much as even cheap cooking oils do in financial terms, picking and drying the walnuts has to be done anyway, so there is only some work on top of that. And whilst it is not easy or quick work, I do have more time than money and I need the exercise anyway.


Several Ethnic Cleansings for the Price of One!

There is a looooong Russian history of ethnic cleansing. They are a bit subler about it, perhaps, than the USA used to be and certainly subtler than Hitler was. It is a Russian thing to displace by force people from somewhere to somewhere else far of, where some of them might survive and eventually some of their descendants might come back a generation later. In the meantime, the land acquires a significant Russian population. That is one of the reasons why Crimea is “Russian”, and why there are significant Russian minorities in the Baltic states. And Putin now hones this old fine Russian art to its most finest.

It was so even before the “partial” mobilization and even more so now – the people who are most likely to be drafted into the military and sent into the meat grinder are ethnic minorities from Russian colonies.

Yes, you read that right. I wrote colonies. People seem not to realize that while Spain and Portugal were busy colonizing South America, the USA were genociding Indians and everybody else was busy dividing among themselves Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, and southern Asia, Russia has quietly run their conquest, and colonization in Siberia. Siberia is not Russian territory occupied by Russians. It is a vast landmass occupied by dozens of different nations, both large-ish and small. Some of the smaller nations (some are counting just a few thousand people by now) are supposed to be exempted from military drafts, but the “partial” mobilization is trying to sweep them up even so (there is no such thing as a rule of law in a totalitarian regime ruled by an autocratic despot).

In a sense, Russia and the USA are the only empires that kept hold of most of their ill-gotten territories. In part maybe because their colonies cover a continuous surface of most of a continent, which makes it easier to kill off, displace or keep a hold on the local population – an uprising next door is easier to quell than an uprising half a globe away.

Putin is now not only attempting to expand the empire and to genocide Ukrainians – who are luckily giving him a hard time with it – but he also is doing his best to weaken the other nations in the Russian Federation whilst doing so. It might be just a coincidence, he might just be trying to avoid sending people from around Moscow and St. Petersburg, whom he needs to hold onto power and whose support might be shaken if their relatives start returning home in bags or not at all. But it might be deliberate too. Either way, he is really trying to be efficacious at this genocide stuff, what a chap!

I still don’t get how anyone who thinks of themselves being a leftist can support him though. I thought that leftists are supposed to be for the unlucky, the poor, the dispossessed etc. Supporting an autocrat juggling genocides for fun seems at odds with that.

Improvipairing mah Belt Grinder

Three weeks ago one of the idler wheels on my belt grinder gave up the ghost with a screech and a puff of smoke. I was wondering why everything was overheating lately – the belts, the platens, the hweels, teh hwole heveryting. As it turns out, one of the ball bearings on one of the idler wheels was probably a bit off and when a ball bearing starts to go bad, it gets only worse from there. I have impromptu repaired the wheel but I have decided to take this opportunity to rebuild and improve my belt grinder.

The first step on that path was buying a bunch of precision-cut aluminum tubing.

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The only downside was that the ball bearings fit too well into these tubes, they could be inserted without any effort whatsoever. And I do not have a lathe to cut grooves for internal snap rings. So I have used stainless steel foil strips as shims for one ball bearing to press it firmly into the tubing with the other ball bearing only inserted and held in place with the nut in the assembly.

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Here you see one of the new wheels before it was assembled on the belt grinder. Aluminum tube with one firmly pressed in ball bearing, steel spacer with a piece of cork to hold it somewhat centered (I have drilled the center of the cork a lot more later on so that the spacer is really loose. The cork is there only so the spacer does not wander too far off center when assembling/disassembling), and the second ball bearing.

I have made three such wheels, and over one I have pressed another aluminum tube to increase its diameter. That one I later fixed in my drill and with the help of my impromptu repaired belt grinder I gave that wheel a barrel-like profile. Because my old tracking wheel was too getting worn and I decided to completely rebuild the spanning arm.

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Here you can see the right side of the spanning arm with the new spaning wheel. I won’t go into technimicical details. Here you have a second picture of the left side, it should be worth a thowsand words.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

This is in part made from new materials. The downside of this assembly is that I had to weld a 30 mm M10 nut onto the arm. Which was not easy. To say that I suck at welding would be to grossly and immodestly overstate my abilities. When I die, the average welding ability of humanity will probably go ever so slightly up. But after a few botched attempts, I have managed to make welds that at least hold in place, even when they look completely craparooni.

The tracking wheel is on an M10 thread rod and thus can be moved left-right with the help of the upper handle. That is necessary to at least somewhat center the belt on the tracking wheel to avoid asymmetric wear of its surface, My previous assembly did not allow for this and as a result, the wheel got really worn on the left side only.

The second screw under that allows for slightly tilting the spanning arm left-right. That moves the belt slightly from left to right, allowing it to center on the platen. This was starting to be difficult with my previous arm, in part because the assembly was a bit too sensitive (short pivot point) and in part due to the asymmetrical wear on the tracking wheel.

I have used the improved belt grinder for a few hours and it seems to work well. When the current batch of knives is in the tumbler, I will coat the wheels with PVC plastic and perhaps start making some other attachments for the belt grinder.