Local Reminders of Global Warming

Last year the broken weather nearly killed my fig trees. There were signs of hope afterward, I wrote about it here.

This year, the broken weather has lead to me harvesting over 1 kg of fresh figs today, in late October, when it should be freezing already. I mean, I am glad the trees recovered and are doing well, but this is not normal. Sometimes a small good thing is a result of a big bad one I guess.

Finishing a Depressing Episode in Life

Two years ago my father’s oldest brother has died. If you were reading TNET at the time, you may remember that it was very stressful before his death. His house was full of garbage. Literally full – each and every room to the breast height, some more – and literally garbage – wrappings, shopping bags, spoiled food. And mixed in that garbage were occasionally valuable things, like tools or antique furniture.

My uncle was not on good terms with the whole family, except with me. So he wanted to give his property to me, which I have refused unless he allows me to throw his garbage out. I planned then to sell the dump for the price of the land and give the money to my nephew, to compensate him a bit the shitty start of life his good-for-nothing father has caused him.

It was difficult to find a company willing to even touch that mess, and when we found one, it took over a month and cost his whole life savings (nearly 30.000,-€). Unfortunately, he died before the works were finished. So I secured the door, barred the windows and the property hung in the limbo of inheritance legalities ever since. My uncle was childless and did not write a testament, therefore his siblings were his inheritors. And, as I expected, my uncles and aunt were not exactly cooperative.

Not that they wanted money – I would be OK with that, I did not want anything in the first place, not for myself. But they knew it would be cheeky to ask for money after they multiple times said they want nothing to do with their brother when he was alive and sick and in need of help. They just were uncooperative and deliberately obtuse, so the whole legal process took almost two years. Last month it was finally over, with my father now being the sole owner of the property. We already have a buyer, for a good price, so hopefully, before the year’s end, it will be over.

During the two years, people broke into the house – door were kicked in, all windows were broken – and stripped it of nearly everything of even modicum of value that was still left there. Someone even tried and failed to steal a huge central heating oven, but it was evidently too heavy. Nevertheless, there were still some things that I want to take before we sell it all.

An old broken wooden cross.

One of those things is an old, broken massive wooden cross. My uncle was a fervent catholic and he worked as a sexton in the local church for decades. He probably scrounged this either to repair it or just as junk. But it is good, old, seasoned oak. The big beam is rotten a bit, but it can still be mostly salvaged enough for a plethora of knife handles, or for vice jaws or something.

In the cellar was a huge pile of fire bricks. I am a bit surprised that those were not stolen – they cost 2,-€ each and they are thus more valuable than the huge heating oven. And they would be less work to take. Possibly the scavengers did not recognize what they are and thought those are ordinary building bricks – I do in fact know that one such person who illegally broke into the house mistook them for ordinary bricks.

I am not sure whether I will be able to make something out of them, but I wanted to build a wood-fired ceramic kiln for a long time, and these bricks were enough for just that. But maybe they will just stay in their new place until my heirs have to clean them away.

Another thing(s) I wanted to take – of limited value to anyone but me – were the lilac and elderberry bushes that have overgrown the garden. Lilac wood is extremely hard and durable, extremely rare and extremely beautiful – the heartwood is lilac and the sapwood creamy-white. Elderberry wood is not very durable, but it too is hard, reasonably beautiful and difficult to get in larger pieces. The new owner will fell most of the trees anyway, and they were in bad condition since my uncle did not care for the garden at all, so I need not feel guilty for cutting them down.

So this weekend my nephew – the future recipient of a big pile of money – came by and he helped me to move all those fire bricks, fell most of the lilacs and elderberries, and stack it all behind my workshop. I took even some thin lilac twigs, I think I can do something out of them, and if not, my house has a wood-burning stove.

Tomorrow I have to take a can of paint and slather it over all the cuts, otherwise the wood will dry too quickly and crack too much.

A pile of firebricks and a pile of wood.

My hands are a lot better. The bones ceased to hurt completely, but some ligaments around the pointer finger are still probably strained and begin to hurt after some works, especially after writing – so there alas still won’t be too much writing from me for an undetermined time. I think I will have to actually fixate these fingers for prolonged time, otherwise they just won’t heal.

History Rhymes – the Betrayal of Kurds

In my country, the Munich Agreement is still perceived as one of the most important lessons of history – the lesson being that western allies are not to be relied upon and that meeting the demands of fascist authoritarians only leads to further demands.

The recent betrayal of Kurds by the USA, via their imbecilic and barely literate president, has many similarities. And many more will follow, including mass graves.

The behavior of Turks, as I observed it on Twitter – before turning away in disgust – is jingoistic and racist, celebrating the violence being perpetrated and cheering the prospect of Kurds being driven into the desert. It drives home another similarity – Turks see Kurds just as Germans saw Slavs prior to WW2 – as lesser, as subhuman, as beings not worthy of consideration. Racism towards Kurds is, at this moment, one of the most prominent and defining features of being a “true Turk”.

Turkish persistent denial of the Armenian genocide is a stain on the country’s reputation and now they are starting another one. And the USA, the self-appointed world policeman, just watches and supplies weapons. Turkey is in NATO after all.

Slavic Saturday

This post too is a sort-of crossover between Behind the Iron Curtain and Slavic Saturday.

Karel Gott was an important figure of Czech culture. He was a stable star of our music scene for sixty years – my whole life and some more. His parents wanted him to have a respectable working-class job, but he wanted to be an artist – specifically a painter. But by coincidence, he ended up famous not as a painter, but as a singer.

He was exceptional in one way – even during the communist regime, he became very popular in West Germany, to the point that the regime went to quite a long way to actually keep him as a valuable source of revenue. So after he once overstayed his visa, the president himself has pleaded with him to return. He was allowed to come back and he was not punished for flirting with emigration.

However, he has somehow managed to not tarnish his name by any shady collaborations with the regime – too much. Most of his support was by filling concert halls and selling records, and only once did he openly shill, by reading a pre-prepared speech chastising the movement Charter 77.

But his popularity was such that even after the regime fell, it did not suffer. He got involved in the velvet revolution just enough to show he knows where the political wind is blowing, and afterward continued as if nothing happened. There were attempts to dig up dirt on him, and he did indeed do some stupid things when he was young, but nothing could shake his star from the top of Czech musical heaven. He was a bit of a clueless idiot when it came to politics – for example, he thought that Trump is a good politician and that refugee crisis in Europe is a result of some conspiracy – but that could not tarnish his reputation either in a nation of clueless racist idiots, so there’s that.

Nothing could shake him. Nothing but death. He died this week after a prolonged battle with leukemia, at the age of 80.

I did not particularly like him. I do not know why, but his singing has always rubbed me the wrong way. I never found his voice to be pleasant to listen to, with some exceptions. But I have always felt some connection to him, partly because we share the first name and partly because he was simply everywhere.  I have also read his book “Říkám to písní” (I say it with a song) and he seemed like a reasonably nice person then. But his opinions about Trump and his conspiratorial theorizing were just daft babblings of a privileged dude who has no clue. I have mixed feelings now.

He recorded this song in 1966 when he was young and I was not born yet. But it is a song about the inevitable end of his star and his life and for some reason one of those that I like.

My first Commission – Part 11 – Finished

I am done. It could be better and hopefully, in the future, I will be able to do better. And also be able to make better pictures.

The knife is balanced at the forefinger groove, blade length approx 110 mm, handle length approx 120 mm. N690 steel.

The knife in its simple leather sheath… © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

…and outside of it. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Blade detail. Etched are my initials and number 1 in Glagolitic script. The false edge is sharp, but not cutting sharp. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Handle from my late cherry tree, coated with hard, waterproof and scratch-resistant boat lacquer. Contrast washers jatoba, fittings stainless steel. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Today I finished taking pain medication for my hands. I will try and abstain from any strenuous work for one more week and we’ll see what happens next. The pain went almost, but never entirely, away. I am OK when I do nothing, but on Friday I wrote a short post on my Czech blog and my hands hurt afterward. The same goes for finishing the leather sheath – I had to swing a hammer a few times to mount the press studs and that caused some mild pain too, despite me being very careful and not needing to hit too hard. It worries me.

My first Commission – Part 10 – Starting the Sheath

First I must say that my writing will continue to be very, very sparse for about two weeks (again). I think I finally found out what is wrong with my hands. I had a pain in my metacarpal bones and joints ever since I worked a bit too much in a too short time. Sometimes it almost went away, but then it came back with a vengeance whenever I did some work. The orthopedist has made an x-ray and has ruled out arthritis, and I have not visited a doctor since because it got multiple times better to the point I thought I am OK.

I think I know what is wrong – I think I have started to develop stress fractures. Those are not visible on x-ray until they develop in a full-blown fracture.

And whenever they almost healed, I did something to aggravate them again. There is only one cure for that – several weeks of no-strain. And due to the nature of the injury, that also means no-excessive writing on PC, no grinding knives, no cutting or splitting wood, etc. I have tried consistently this last week to do that and today and yesterday I was again almost pain-free. But I think I need to keep it up for at least two more weeks for the bones to recover completely. If that does not help, then I am going to the doctor again to try and find out what the hell it is.

What I could safely do was to coat the knife handle with boat lacquer. And this weekend I started, carefully, working on the sheath.

First I have cut the two slabs for the sides and then two strips for the belly and the back. To get the strips to conform with the blade geometry I did not cut them curved but I formed them from a wet leather strip. When it dries, it holds form nicely and it saves material.

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

The next step was to glue everything together with wood glue. In case you ever do this, beware. Wood glue on dry tanned leather works really, really fast. Not superglue-fast, but fast enough for you to want to be sure that when you press the parts together, they are in the correct position straight away. Wetting the leather beforehand might give me some time, but I did not want to do that because the clamps would leave impressions in it.

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

I have let it dry for a few minutes, then I took off the clamps and I inscribed a line with a knife-tip for stitching and cut the opening for a belt. In case you are wondering why there are round punched holes at the end of the cuts – those are there to avoid stress concentration and thus to prevent the leather from tearing further when used.

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

Now I leave it to completely dry until tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I am trying to figure out a way for making my maker’s mark on the leather. I could cut it, but that seems a bit inelegant.

Spider Carnage

This weekend I had to mainly 1) prepare firewood for winter and 2) finish my first commissioned knife.

The customer had a look at the knife and I had to adjust the handle a bit so it fits in their hand. No biggie, but it was three hours of additional work all the same since I had to re-shape, re-polish and re-buff the endcap as well. When making knives that are not customer-specific I have to try and make the grips more universal sized and shaped. Or perhaps in different sizes?

Now the knife handle is being coated with boat lack, which is not a process that lends itself to being photographed. As far as the knife goes, you won’t see any new pictures until its finished. But next weekend, while the lacquer is drying and hardening, I am going to make the leather sheath and hopefully make som worthwhile pictures of that. I have not done too much of leatherwork yet, it will be fun.

In the meantime, I only can post a picture I made at work with my phone a few days ago. A gruesome image of one spider devouring another one. See below the fold. I have no idea what species or even genera they might be, but what I do find interesting that it is the slender-legged and fragile looking spider who is doing the devouring and the buff-looking hairy beast is the devoured.

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My first Commission – Part 9 – Fitting, Signing, Assembling

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

The HDD magnet proved to be very useful when polishing the bolster/handguard. It proved to be strong enough to hold it when grinding on the belt grinder, but also when polishing with the angle grinder. I did not intend to use the magnet in this way, but now I will because it has proven itself to be extremely useful for holding these tiny things steady. Shame that other metals that I am going to use for these things – aluminium and brass – are not magnetic.

The next thing I have done after the bolster was fitted was to make the handle. That did not go too well as you may remember. The first piece of wood had cracks, on the second piece of wood I messed up the drilling and the third time was the charm. It is a nice piece of wood and looks great when the grip is fully shaped, but I do wish that I have managed to get the grain alignment a bit better. But grain alignment is not something that anyone else fusses about that much, so I should not fuss about it either. Here you can see the grip roughly cut and shaped on the belt sander.

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

After the grip was shaped, I have also glued to ti the end cap/pommel thingie and I have decided to sign the blade before assembly.  For that, I have tried a new thing, which unfortunately completely and utterly failed.

I have bought photosensitive lack that is used for etching PCB boards. The idea is, you spray-paint your metal surface, you print your design, you put your design on the surface and use UV light to quickly deteriorate the paint on illuminated areas. Then you wash out the deteriorated paint with a 1% solution of NaOH and voila – you can etch.

The paint did not deteriorate under UV lamp as advertised and the NaOH solution did not wash it out of the illuminated areas. I have followed every step of the instructions, multiple times, and it just did not work. So I tried to increase the NaOH solution concentration – and it washed off all of the paint. So until and unless someone shows this particular product to me to work, I am considering it an unfortunate waste of money.

I do not want to make my signatures too big, and I want to number the blades from now on, and the wax is not very conducive to tiny fine details. So I had to revert back to how I did things in the past, with slight improvements. I have covered the blade with plastic adhesive tape. But this time I have used double-sided tape on the parts where the signature and numbering were due to go, and then I glued to it one print of the now useless stencils for the failed photo etching. Then I cut out the letters with shaving razor and a pointy scalpel blade.

Because I did not want to damage this blade, I have first tested this new technique on the failed machete (that fail has proven quite useful, I have hardened piece of steel for experimenting).

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

Etching in a cup with solution works, but it takes a lot of space and a lot of solution to immerse the whole blade. So I have built myself a new thingie that allows me to perform etches with very little solution.

I took a piece of graphite and ground it flat to about 20x30x5 mm. On top, I glued a piece of wood and covered it all with excess epoxy glue to protect it against moisture. The next day I drilled a 6,5 mm hole into the wood down to the graphite. Lastly, I took a piece of 8 mm brass pipe, cut M8 thread in the hole and on the pipe, and I screwed the pipe into the hole so far that it has a solid connection with the graphite.

For the etching itself, I have simply put a piece of felt soaked in diluted FeCl3 solution on top of the design, between the blade and the new graphite electrode. Anode (+) on the tang, cathode (-) on the brass pipe and after five minutes the job was done. The etchings are clean and nice looking.

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

 

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

Just like last time, I have no pictures of the assembly. Imagine me slathering epoxy mixed with wood dust all over the tang, hammering the handle onto it and then peening the end of the tang whilst being in a constant state of panic that something goes wrong. Nothing went wrong, although I am not happy with how the peen turned out. But the customer did accept in advance that peened tangs can be a bit unseemly. Even unhardened stainless steel does not like to be peened and tends to crack around the edges. And I did not dare to try and weld soft steel stud at the end of the tang, this steel allegedly does not weld well. But maybe I will try something different for the second blade. This one is unfortunately stuck with this, although it might get a bit better with some more polishing.

 

So the knife is now more or less finished and functional. The last thing to do is to clean and polish the wood to about 300 grit and then impregnate it with boat lack.

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

Residence Sunflowers – Part 9 – The Heavy Drinkers

Sometimes a bumblebee lands, drinks a bit, and then flies off again like a little helicopter. Not these two though. They both took their time, going around the flower systematically in a circle, drinking as much as they can. And just when I was taking the pictures, one of them decided to take 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.

Residence Sunflowers – Part 7 – Great Green Bush Cricket

I nearly missed her, despite her substantial size, so well does her color blend in with the sunflower stalks and leaves.

I remember that as a child I caught one of these in bare hand and it bit me rather painfully.

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

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

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