Kitchen Knives Set – Part 8: I Just Could Not Stand It

It is several months since the last update on this project, and there are reasons for that. Some have to do with the project itself, some do not. One of the reasons that are directly related to the project was that I had difficulty finishing the knife stands because in the cold weather the boat lacquer that I have decided to use for finish took an absolutely inordinate amount of time to harden properly. So prepare now for a really long post about how I made the wooden stands for these knives.

The original plan was to make all woodworks from jatoba and black locust, thus making the stands from massive hardwood. But since I have made the handles from the rather rare and precious applewood, I had a very limited supply. Especially when it came to the spalted wood. So I stood in front of a decision – should I try to make the stands match the handles or not. And I have decided to give it a try and make matching stands. Which means getting a lot out of a little.

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First I started by cutting the cores of the future stands out of some scrap spruce wood, of which I have an overabundance. Where I needed a thicker piece, I have simply layered and trimmed the thinner ones until I got the size that I wanted, with a generous amount of wood on both sides of each blade, especially for the stands where two blades were meant to be next to each other.

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This was the first time I have used expanding PU glue. PVA glue would have difficulty to set in my workshop, even with heating. This glue did harden within a few hours enough so I could safely take it indoors for the rest of the curing process.

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After these cores were glued and cut to the final size, I have sanded all flat surfaces. Not very thoroughly, just enough that I do not get my hands full of splinters.

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And since I had to do with what little of the precious wood I had, I have decided to use thin boards/veneers for finishing. I have cut approx 5 mm thick slices of the wood on my bandsaw and with a bit of luck, I did get enough of each of the three types of wood that I have used for the handles to cover the stands. Mostly. I could have cut even thinner veneers, like 2 mm, but 5 mm did save me a bit of work later on.

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Most veneers were cut with the grain, but I have also cut several pieces across the grain. Those I have glued on the end of the softwood cores and only after that I have cut the slits for blades. For each blade a cut just as deep as the blade is wide, so each knife has a slot fitted exactly to it. I took two passes on the circular saw for each slit since I have cut them about 1-2 mm wider than the blades are, so the knives come in and out really easily without scraping the sides. That way at least I hope the probability of something getting stuck to the mirror-polished blade and scratching it later on in the stand should be reduced. I could not of course make the slits too wide, because then the point could get stuck in them.

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Wherever veneers had to be put side-by-side, I had to carefully fit them together so the seams are as small as possible. In one case I also had to change the design of the stand since I did not have any veneers long enough and I did not want to link veneer strips lengthwise. Two strips beside each other do connect almost seamlessly and even when they are visible, they do not disturb. But a clear line across the grain or the pattern in the spalted wood would surely look at least odd.

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

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

To fit the veneers properly all around I had to first glue up two opposing sides, trim the excess, grind it to flat, and only then I could glue the other two sides. Trim and sand again and I got finished building blocks for the final products.

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There were some minor problems – the spalted wood was soft and got chipped – so I had to fill in some places with resin mixed with sawdust and/or offcuts.

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Then there was a lot of sanding. It made me glad to have a hand-held belt sander. I will probably have to buy an orbital sander too if I am going to make more of these.

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Since the resulting pieces had very sharp edges which would not look very well in combination with the rather rounded handles, I have decided to round them significantly. I did not use a router, although I do own one. Instead, I have just sanded all future edges down with 60 grit sandpaper over a soft sponge until they looked right, and then I have polished them.

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In one of the stands, the pieces were connected by big enough flat surfaces that I could reliably clamp it all together during curing, but int two of the pieces had to be connected by relatively small areas and at an odd angle, so I have used a piece of wood to drill holes for dowels to prevent the parts from shifting during the glue-up.

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And here they are, fixed to small boards for stability and handling during the paint job. I have decided to use boat lacquer for the stands because infusing such big pieces with resin would be very, very expensive. I did not expect it to take as long as it did though.

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After the first coat with highly diluted lacquer the grain and fungus patterns popped up on all pieces quite significantly. I have left it dry for two days and then gave it two more coats with diluted lacquer in two-days intervals to stabilize the soft and spongy wood as much as is possible. And after that, it was five-six more coats with undiluted lacquer, with a few days wait and thorough sanding between each coating. When the last coating was drying, I got tangled up for several weeks with other works, mainly in the garden, and only this last week did I get round to do the last hand sanding. I sanded the pieces in increasing grits up to 1000 and there I did stop because I wanted them to have the same satin finish as the handles.

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I have modified my buffing compound for the stands, but it is still perhaps a bit too hard. It did buff the pieces nicely though, so I cannot complain. Too much. I did achieve my goal, which was to make the stands reasonably similar to the knife handles. There is a bit of difference in color because the handles are thoroughly infused with resin, but I do not think it is a problem and neither does anyone who has seen it so far (about 7 people).

And this week I finally got to the last step in this rather long project – making the stands to actually, well, stand. Out of the three, only one was big and heavy enough to be stable – the one from mostly healthy wood. For the other two, I did not have enough material to make them with a wide enough base, so I had to fit them with legs. I have considered several options and I have decided to go with a 6 mm stainless steel pipe. Aluminum would look cheap and brass would clash with the visible stainless steel tangs on the knives.

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To drill the holes safely and at a proper angle, I have first made a little board that could be fixed to the stand at the angle I wanted it to be in one direction. In the depicted case, the board is at the angle the leg is supposed to be when viewed from above. Into that board I have drilled a hole at an angle it was supposed to go into the stand. Then I could fix this board to the stand by the simple method of copious amounts of paper masking tape and drill the hole safely and at the correct angle.

By the way, I did not do any measuring or sketching for this. The “correct” angle was established by eyeballing.

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With that, I was still not done with this piece of wood. I have trimmed one end of it at the angle the leg will touch the ground and used that as a guide to filing down the end of the pipe flat-ish.

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Gluing the legs with epoxy was pretty straightforward after that and they were already mostly – although not perfectly – flat against the plate.

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They did need a bit of sanding to get them perfectly flat, but not that much.

And that is the project almost finished. All that is left is to sharpen the knives and make pretty pictures. Hopefully sometime soon. You can see here that I have also already begun the next batch of knives. Yup, that is how long it took for the lacquer to harden, I have managed to grind and harden ten new blades in the meantime.

The next – and last – post in this series will be pure cutlery porn. This is one of those rare instances where I think I have done a good job.


Grumpy Redstart

It is very rare that I get an opportunity to take a picture of male black redstart. I see them all the time, but they are restless and they never come to the feeder. This one was moving around the feeder, although he did not eat the seeds – he used the surroundings for vantage points to spot insects in the grass. And he stayed a few times in one place long enough for me to take a picture.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

That last picture gives me the impression of an old grampa looking disapprovingly at me. Something about the line between the black and grey feathers above the eyes gives him that look.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 37- 1st of May

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.

One of the central dogmas of the regime was the notion that everything is for the common workers, the laborers, and peasants. Those were deemed not only essential for the proper running of society (not wrong), sometimes to ignoring that intellectuals actually have useful functions too.

The International Worker’s Day was a state holiday, and we were taught at school a bit about the history behind it. Not much, as far as I remember, but the actual reasons behind the holiday were discussed and even in hindsight, most of them were valid then and are valid now.

However, as it is with authoritarian regimes, the good came with the sidedish of the bad and sometimes downright ugly.

1st of May was an official day off of work and school, so officially people were free to spend that day as they choose. In every town and moderately sized village, there was a procession and a speech by some party representative, but attending was not compulsory. In the sense “it is voluntary, but you have to go”.

I did not like the processions that much, because I do not like crowds and loud noises. But I did attend. I do not remember much, only two experiences come to mind at least somewhat vividly.

The first experience was an extremely strong feeling of embarrassment when our local firefighter truck was driving along the procession, shouting propaganda and encouragements for cheering from loudspeakers. I did not like it and even to my socially stunted mind, it was clear that nobody else liked it either. If the day is so glorious, if our country is so great and the party so beloved, why on earth do the people need to be egged on to cheer and shout slogans by an obnoxious a-hole with a megaphone? I did not put it in those words exactly, but those were my feelings.

The second experience was the chastising of one of my classmates who was not a member of Pionýr and whose family did not attend the parade one year. In a small town, this did not go unnoticed and our class teacher did call him out publicly during class for this. There were no other repercussions other than the public shaming, but I did not enjoy seeing that at all.

In both of these instances, I have subconsciously sensed a deep disconnect between the messaging we get and the true state of affairs. That cognitive dissonance was not particularly strong, but it was there and it was nagging. When the regime finally fell, a lot of the things that did not make sense to me as a child started to make sense later.

Later in life, I was surprised that much of what I have been taught to see as “Capitalist countries” also celebrate the holiday, oftentimes including the parades and speeches, but without the voluntary compulsory nature. I am afraid that in my mind this holiday will always be tainted, as it is in the minds of many of my generation.

What is The Situation in India – View of Indian Doctors

TLDW – It’s hell.

It looks like the Indian government made the same mistake that the Czech government has made – the first wave of the pandemics was so well handled that politicians got the feeling that it is all over now. And communicated this to the public, who were all too eager to believe it. And because India has both a lot more people than Czechia and fewer hospital beds per capita, the disaster is proportionally worse.

I have never expected to see the truth of the saying “you should not rest on your laurels” demonstrated in such a tragic way.

Medlife crisis is an excellent and entertaining science and health-oriented YouTube Channel. This video, however, is not of the entertaining and funny kind. I do recommend his other videos too.

A Dandily One

Dandelions in the vegetable patch are a nuisance, but in the lawn, they are a delight to see. For me anyway. They bloom soon after snowdrops and narcissuses and continue to do so well into the fall. Thus they are an important source of food for bees, butterflies, and all other kinds of pollinators.

This is not the first dandelion of this year in my garden, but it is the first one with multiple blossoms opening at once. Unfortunately, there were no insects to be seen anywhere right now, although I did see bumblebee queens scouting the garden for nesting places.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Tiny Vegetable Patch Inspectors

The inspectors are tiny, not the vegetable patch. That is quite huge (over 40 square meters). It took me 1 hour to plow it all and that knocked me out for two days. Now I am breaking the dirt lumps and making the beds for the veggies which I expect to keep me busy for a week. Last year we had only one huge patch with potatoes, this year it will be split into several small ones for peas, onions, beans, and cucumbers.

And today when I had my lunch break, several small birds came to inspect my handiwork and feast on earthworms and insects brought to the surface – the redstarts are back, a sure sign that spring has really begun. These birds never come to the feeder, they are strict insectivores and they really enjoy the vegetable patches after the rain or when the surface is disturbed.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I assume that these are all black redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros, because those I usually see around here. But there might be some common redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus among these four pictures this time or even all of them. These are all females and those are hard to distinguish, species-wise, for me. Today was one of the rare instances when I have also seen male common redstart, but he, unfortunately, whooshed before I got him into focus.

Kites are Back and Tempting Again

Red kites returned from their winter vacation south and are circling our house daily. Regularly staying in one place just long enough that I manage to fetch my camera, but not long enough to take a picture. So this is a so-so picture from a few weeks ago. I also hear daily their typical cries, so even when I do not see them, I know they’re there, somewhere.

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DIY Reusable (Hopefully) Etching Stencils

At about the same time that I have decided to leave my job and try to make a living as a knifemaker, I have also decided to number the blades that I make. And since my logo is my initials in Glagolitic script, it seemed only logical to use Glagolitic numbering too. Almost nobody will be able to read the numerals without aid (including me), but I do think that arabic numerals would look a bit odd in combination with my logo, so I have decided to go through with the use of Glagolitsa.

The numerals consist mostly of straight lines and dots, so it is kinda easy to cut them in adhesive tape with a scalpel tip. But it costs relatively a lot of time – I have spent about ten minutes per blade since I have moved into two-number digits and things will only get more and more complicated after that. So for a long time, I was thinking about how to make stencils.

I could not use the same method that I use for my logo, because the numerals are so tiny that even if I were able to cut them into the 1 mm silicone sheet, the etching solution would have trouble reaching the surface through such a narrow, water-repelling, canal anyway. I needed something thinner. Like a sheet of paper. But how to waterproof a sheet of paper? I have tried it with wax in the past, and that did not work. Beeswax contaminated the surfaces and paraffin wax is not elastic enough. It would be ideal to infuse the paper with silicone, somehow, but how? I was thinking about trying to buy pouring silicone for forms, but I was reluctant to spend money on it not knowing upfront if it will be of any use.

And then I got a much simpler idea, so simple that it does make me wonder how come I did not come up with it sooner – linseed oil. I have printed my numerals on a sheet of paper, soaked it thoroughly in linseed oil, and left it harden for a few days. The resulting sheet was repelling water and bendy enough to adhere reliably to the blades, whilst stiff enough for me to be able to cut the numerals.

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Each stencil has two parts – one for vertical lines, one for the rest, since oftentimes it is not possible to cut the whole number at once for obvious reasons. The oiled paper is also transparent enough to be able to place the second part over the first reliably-ish enough.

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Since the stencils are so small that some unwanted etching around the edge of the stencil is a real risk, I have made a round shield from silicone to protect the surrounding area and also to provide a better seal for the stencil itself. And when I was at it, I have made two new graphite etching electrodes with the felt permanently attached to the graphite. One with big rectangular felt (left) for the logos (not used yet) and one with a soft, round tip specifically for the numerals.

And I am pleased to say that it all works. I was numbering blades 40-48 just a few days ago and it took me a lot less time than before – and this time I still had to cut the numerals into the paper. Next time I should be even faster because the stencils are already cut and I see no reason why they should not last until the next batch of blades is ready for etching. Here you can see one test-etch of the number 40 on the tang and the number 41 on the blade.

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The numbers are not perfect, but they are not worse-looking than they were before. Indeed it could be argued that if the numerals were perfect, it would undercut the handmade look of my knives which always have some minor irregularities in them no matter what I do. Or it could be argued that I am setting my goals too low, well…

We shall see what the public decides once the pandemic is over and I can go and sort out all the necessary paperwork to be able to actually sell them.


I Almost Didn’t Fail the Second Time

My first attempt at big blade ended up in a disaster and after several years of procrastinating the issue ended up as a smaller (though not small) knife. I gave it a second shot because 1) I really need a machete 2) I want to learn to make these big blades for I have big plans for the future, that will no doubt never come to fruition.

And as the title says it, I almost didn’t fail this time. At least, I do have a serviceable tool to use in my garden.

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Spring steel, blackened with oak bark. 4-6 mm thick, 51 cm overall length. Fully hardened, spine tempered to spring.

This time things went reasonably well, but I was suspecting that I have ground the fullers too deep. At least they were passably symmetrical – there was no trouble in the quench. The blade came out hardened and mostly straight, and the very slight bent it has developed (circa 1-2 mm over the whole length) was easily corrected with my unbender after heat treatment.

However, when I was trying to polish the blade and smooth out the fullers, it turned out I was right – I made the fullers too deep and near the tip I have thus ground through. But it might not be a functional issue, just an aesthetic one, so I have decided to finish it, albeit with less attention to detail than I would had it been a complete success. I have filed the hole bigger and oval with diamond-coated files (to remove any stress-risers) and I have stopped polishing the blade, especially the insides of the fullers. I just gave it a few buffs with scotch brite discs for angle-grinder and then it went into the oak bark tee for a nice night-long bath.

Handle fittings are from bronze and handle scales are from pickled black locust. I did want the blade to complement the previous one since they will both be used by me in my garden. This handle is specifically fitted to my hands, so nobody with different-shaped hands would probably feel comfortable using it. I have no idea yet how it will work out in the long term, but it did feel perfectly fine when I gave a few whacks to an old wooden board with it.

I might make a scabbard or a sheath for it too. I am currently thinking about whether to make a double-sheath for the pair or a separate sheath for each item. Both options have pros and cons. Not that I do actually need a sheath for wearing them, they are unlikely to ever leave the house further than the 60 or so meters that is my backyard long, but they are both sharp and big and dangerous and could get rusty, so I need an option for safe storage, both protecting them from elements and me from injuries when they are not used.

Birds on Snow

I will post some pretty birds from this winter in due course. So the weather in the pictures will not always correspond to the actual weather out here.

However, these pictures were taken today. The winter tried to reclaim the land and we had several days of wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. I do hope that the seeds that I have planted in the greenhouse survived.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Woman Gamers on Youtube – Chess Player – Anna Rudolf

Anna Rudolf has a few tales to tell about sexism in Chess, although she does not talk explicitly about sexism. However, I do think that her false accusation of cheating has a lot to do with some men’s fragile egos being hurt by losing to a woman.

The tale has a happy-ish ending in the sense that she was vindicated and her accusers were reprimanded for wantonly accusing her sans evidence. However, I do wonder if she would have won the tournament and the GM title if she were not so emotionally distraught in that last game.

How to Catch Chess Cheaters With Statistics

Mano has recently mentioned a little kerfuffle in the online chess community involving an American International Master Levy Rozman and an Indonesian cheater Dadang Subur, who was banned o shortly after a match between the two raised the suspicion of Levy Rozman and he (and possibly a lot of people who watch his twitch streams) reported him as a suspected cheater. evaluated the situation and banned the suspected cheater, thus turning him from suspected cheater to confirmed cheater. guards the tools they are using to evaluate whether someone is cheating or not pretty closely so cheaters cannot learn how to circumvent them, which is understandable. It is also a bit annoying for someone who likes to make statistical analyses of their own, like me. I cannot know the tools they use, neither do I have the access to their data, but that does not stop me from speculating. And today I would like to share one of those speculations on the off-chance that there are more people who like this kind of stuff around here.

In the comment section at Mano’s, I have speculated a bit:

They have probably several criteria to look at, and here is my guess at what they are:

1. The time between moves. Experienced players can play memorized opening moves within a fraction of a second. If someone consistently has a high rating and takes a long time to make beginning moves, it is an indicator of engine use.

2. Distribution of times the moves take during a game. I have not made a proper analysis, but my guess based on looking at my own games would be that they should conform to a Weibull distribution.

3. The length of winning-losing streaks. These should probably be pretty randomly long. Consistent patterns of extremely long winning streaks and no losing streaks are a bit suspicious.

4. The win/loss ratio. The site does a fairly good job at pairing people of similar strength, so it should be about 50/50. Even when your ELO is going up. I have gained 300 ELO over half a year and I do have circa 50/50 win to lose ratio.

5. Game accuracy and consistency. It is possible, even for weak players like me, to get accuracy over 90%, or even an occasional perfect game without mistakes and blunders. But a streak of twenty nearly flawless games is unlikely, even for titled players.

6. Rating growth speed. Titled players can send in their certificate and they get assigned rating accordingly, they do not need to start at the basic rating like everyone else. For an untitled player, the faster they gain rating, the more suspicious it is.

From all these, points 1 and 2 are relatively easy to check with just a few games, so I did that. I have downloaded ten of my games, ten games from Magnus Carlsen, and twenty games from one cheater whom I have recently played. My and cheater’s games were all 10 minutes games with no time increment, Magnus Carlsen’s games were, unfortunately, ten and fifteen minutes games with 2 seconds increments, so I had to cut those at fifty moves. But for the purpose of this demonstration, it is sufficient. And why twenty games from the cheater? Because he was an intermittent cheater. He had long winning streaks of nearly perfect games and then long losing streaks of crappy ones with one occasional win by the skin of his teeth. And while it is easy to get a long losing streak of crappy games (I should know), getting one long streak of nearly perfect wins is not very plausible – unless you are Magnus Carlsen, that is.

So the first picture that I would like to share is a so-called dotplot of move times in these games.

On the x-axis are the times in seconds and each dot represents up to ten moves. With the most simple of statistical analyses, the so-called “Lookandsee analysis” one can already see some discrepancies. Both the world champion and I have a very similar distribution of times, with most times being in the range up to ten seconds, with the peak at the category 0 seconds (moves shorter than 1 sec). For the cheater, who had about the same ELO as me, it is different in both his OK games and his fraudulent ones.

In his OK games, he too made a lot of moves in fifteen seconds or less, but he was much slower, with a peak at five seconds category. That indicates the cheater was taking a lot more time than he should even for easy moves, as befits someone who is currently trying to punch way above his weight class.

In his fraudulent games, this becomes even more profound. Almost no moves are made faster than five seconds (and those are usually the first moves of the game) and most take between ten to fifteen seconds.

If the moves were adhering to a normal distribution, there would be a number of easy-to-make visualization tools and statistical tests available. Alas, they do not. I have speculated that they will have Weibull distribution, which was speculation based on the fact that they have a lower limit (0 seconds) and an upper limit (duration of the game, also 10 minutes). As it turns out, Lognormal distribution is even better fit, although Weibull did fit occasionally too.

In a probability plot, if the fit is good the dots should be distributed along with the straight diagonal line and between the curved lines of the same color, which they mostly, although not perfectly, are.

You might say that AD (Anderson-Darling) values say otherwise, and they do, they are a bit high. The p-value also is too low for a good fit for those tests where it could be calculated. But that is in part a problem with these statistical tests, which generally do not work very well with grainy data. And here we have all times rounded to 0.1 seconds, so it is very grainy at the lower end, where, coincidentally, most of the data is. I could transform the data, but it was a lot of work as it is and I am sure I am losing some readers already. So take my word for it that both Lognormal and Weibull distributions are reasonable approximations.

So as a last picture, let us look at a histogram with an overlaid best-fit lognormal curve.

I am sure that has software solutions to dig through the data of suspected cheaters and to dredge up comparisons similar to these for all the points that I have mentioned. There probably are some correlations between move time and its quality with regard to the situation on the board etc.

All in all, I do believe that when someone is banned on for cheating that they were indeed cheating. And there are things that cheaters will probably never be able to fool. The example here is, I think, one of them.

In order to cheat, either the cheater or their assistant must go through the loop of inputting the moves into a computer, waiting for the algorithm to spit out the answer and then inputting the answer to the game. This inevitably prolongs the time. So to keep the move times consistent with those of an honest player might be the most difficult, if not impossible, hurdle for these scumbags.