YouTube Video: Original Vs Reproduction – Which is better?

What I find the most interesting about his video is the realization that our modern perceptions of what is and is not beautiful are heavily skewed towards unreasonable and sometimes unachievable perfection. Sometimes perfection that you can only evaluate up so close, that you need a magnifying glass and calipers.

I blame the industrial revolution and mass-produced machined goods.

Residence Sunflowers – Part 5 – Bees

Of course. But not as many as I would like, unfortunately.

Our neighbor had beehives in her garden – her brother in law was a beekeeper. But he died a few years ago and none of his two sons took over. And thus bees disappear from the landscape, one old beekeeper dying at a time

And even solitary bees are becoming distressingly rare as they are increasingly more deprived of suitable food sources due to excessive rapeseed cultivation in our country because rapeseed brings biggest profits to the corporate oligarchs ruling our agriculture. Rapeseed all around is for bees about as healthy as nothing but dry bread and water is for humans.

© 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.

Residence Sunflowers – Part 4 – Bugs

Not sure what these are doing there, but they sure do like them sunflowers, the green and fuzzy parts especially.

Funny thing is that I get the best results with macro photography with my cheapo macro lens that I have build from a magnifying glass, paper tube and a thread reduction ring for lenses. But all pictures made with it have significant chromatic aberration. Someday I will write about how to correct it in Photoshop. The first photo in this post is ideal for that.

© 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.

Residence Sunflowers – Part 3 – The Thieves

Yellowjackets are lousy pollinators. From a gardening point of view they are pests. They scavenge and steal and eat whatever they find and sometimes destroy. In this particular case, I have caught one munching on the stem. The wasp has bitten into it and probably munched on the sap. It definitively was not just cooling off its heels in the shade, her mandibles were moving and she took her time on that spot.

What the ones on the leaves were doing I have no idea, but I never saw one even near the blossoms.

© 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 2 – The Buds

I do like the way sunflowers look even before they fully blossom. There is something soothing about the deep fresh green, fuzziness and the prickly look that speaks to me.

And some of the residents seem to prefer the green buds over the fully open blossoms.

© 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.

Residence Sunflowers – Part 1 – The Neighbourhood

Today was a nice day, and I decided to take my camera and dance a bit around the row of sunflowers that my father has planted this year. I think we will plant them every year, they are beautiful and bees and bumblebees love them, as well as a plethora of other creatures. So this week stay tuned for some pictures from that.

This is the whole lot, looking east in the morning.

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

Packs of Goodies

I have decided to buy some new thingies for the ole workshope, and they arrived this week.

The thing that I was most looking forward to was a new respirator. The one I use these last few years has some serious issues – the strap that goes around the head is just one strip of elastic and it really hurts when worn for a longer time. I also have problems with sealing – but not around the beard as the manufacturers of these things like to warn, but around the nose, where it is too wide and soft. The new one seems to fit well, but I did not get around to test it in action yet. The load on the head is spread on two solid strips so that should be better too. Here you can see my staring into the void wearing that thing. It does feel quite comfortable, today I shall see how it feels when worn longer and doing actual work.

Another safety-related thingie that I bought is a stand for my angle grinder. I have been mulling this over for about a year but decided finally to buy it because by coincidence I have seen it at my friends’ garage and he confirmed that it does in fact work as advertised and is compatible with my tool. It is assembled now, but it probably won’t get into any real action before the next batch of knives.

When at it, I also bought a mini-vice with a swivel ball joint at the base. I hope it makes manufacturing and finishing of fiddly little things easier. It came right with plastic soft jaws and at a glance seems to be exactly the thing I have needed for a long time by now.

There were other small things in the packet not worth extra mention, but one other thing is. Unexpectedly I have also received a nice big package from Marcus, who was so very kind and has sent me two pieces of steel rope damascus and a piece of stabilized maple to play with. That is simply grand, because it will take some time before I can make my own damascus (if ever) and stabilized wood (on that one I am more confident). So big thanks to Marcus, after my currently running projects are done, I already know what will come next.

I am realizing that instead of pretty pictures I am serving you mostly things from my workshop but as you can imagine that is where I concentrate most of my effort these days and I did not have time to play ft with my camera for quite a long time by now.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 32 – Money Lenders

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a 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.


Lending money was a very tightly controlled activity behind the Iron Curtain. The regime had a de-facto monopoly on big lending and strictly regulated the activity. It was only possible to get a loan from a bank, and many young people did so when they started a family, just as they do today – to buy or build a house, an apartment, furnishings, etc.

My sister got a loan too when she got married. So did my parents.

I never heard of anybody having trouble with payments. The law regulated what rates can be given, what securities can be required and what payments can be requested, so for people getting into financial trouble this way was not common. Loan sharks existed – on those another time – because organized crime existed. But it was that – a crime. If it was possible for anyone getting into insolvency or personal bankruptcy because they could not keep up with their legal payments, It was rare and I never heard of it.

That has changed rapidly after the Iron Curtain fell. The bad thing about that was that our first finance minister and late president Václav Klaus is Randian libertarian, and he governed the state finances with the assumption that “the invisible hand of the free market” is a panacea for all problems. One of the legacies of that time was the abandonment of many regulatory laws, including those that defined and outlawed loan-sharking. Suddenly it became legal to loan money at thousands of percent interests, with short payments, exorbitant fees, etc. etc. A few thousands worth of debt could, and still can, balloon into thousandfold and suddenly you pay more in monthly fees than the original debt was worth. Speculations with debts became rife and a whole money-sharking industry emerged from the free market quite naturally.

Only it is not a solution, but a cancerous growth. Today roughly 8% of our little country’s population got caught in these financial traps. Some people even very obviously through no fault of their own – they were indebted by their careless or clueless parents or inherited a debt without knowing it.

And thus the free market provided a new class of people – the working poor, the debt-slaves and the homeless. I think this too was one of those few things the regime did actually handle properly, or at least better than the current one which still did not catch up with this entirely unnecessary crisis and still did not put the money lenders on a short leash.

My first Commission – Part 7 – Sharp!

Hell isn’t forever after all. Today I have finished both blades and for the second one, I opted for a satin finish. Not because it is easier – it is not – but because I wanted to see the difference and decide what I like more for the future. Well, I am still undecided, but I can see the difference. And so can you, although it was not easy to think of a way to photograph this.

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

The satin finish was made by me not going to the finest buffing compound. Instead of that, I went for a fine abrasive pad right after the medium buffing compound and I dragged it along the blade a few (hundred) times. And I probably will do some more.

After the blades were finished, I have decided to sharpen them. I probably will sharpen blades before assembly for several reasons. Firstly I like making apple seed (convex) edges, that give the blade look as if it does not have a secondary bevel at all. For that, I might need to re-buff the blade a bit, and that can only be done before the handle gets in the way. Secondly, should I scratch the blade by accident during the sharpening, it is easier to re-polish it before assembly. So whilst I do not necessarily sharpen the knives to shaving sharp at this stage, I do sharpen them to some 90%.

This steel (N690) should not be sharpened at an angle steeper than 15°, steeper than that and the fine edge allegedly tends to break off. I have no reason to doubt this since the blades are hard as hell. This time I have a way to get a really nice and consistent angle – I could use my magnetic jig. So I did. The N690 is steel with so-called “secondary hardening”, so it is basically nearly impossible to overheat and destroy the edge during sharpening. Nevertheless, I took care to take my time and not overheat it, it does not pay to get into bad habits.

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

You may see that there is no platen behind the belt, so I am using a slack-belt setup here. That means the secondary bevel will be concave and the cutting edge itself will be sharpened in fact at an angle a bit higher than 15°, which is ideal for a hunting/camping knife of this type.  Convex grinds are very durable – the knife that I have made for my mother needs sharpening only about two-three times a year despite being used and abused daily.

Speaking of that, when I was at it I also sharpened all her kitchen knives. Those took just one-two very quick passes on the slackbelt and then a few passes on my stropping wheel (made according to Walter Sorrell’s video)

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

Your eyes do not deceive you, that grinder with the stropping wheel is back-to-front.  For stropping, the wheel must rotate in the direction of the edge, not against it, because it is softer than the blade and if you try stropping against the edge, the blade will bite into the fast-spinning wheel and dire consequences will follow. Having the grinder backward allows me to work on the upper side of the wheel, so should it grab the knife and throw it, it will hit the wall and not my leg or the concrete ground. I find it also a lot easier to strop the blades that way.

The stropping wheel gets the knives to scary-sharp in mere seconds. I am using the coarse stropping compound, in my opinion, it makes a better edge than the fine ones.

Now the blades are polished, nearly completely sharp and wrapped in masking tape. It took me three times more time than I think it should and about 30% more than I thought it will. But now the most time-consuming and nerve-wracking part is hopefully behind me and next steps will be free of trials and tribulations. Or at least with significantly shorter ones.

My first Commission – Part 6 – Halfway Through Hell

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This weekend I only could work for about 4 hours on this project, but I have finally managed to finish one blade.

I am not happy with it. Like, at all. I could have done a better job, and I have done a better job in the past. I just could not get into the thing at all. I kept making mistakes, and whilst to make a mistake on belt grinder takes a split of a second, correcting it can take hours. After 400 grit I went to hand-sanding. It is more strain on the fingers than the belt grinder, but a lot less space for a mess-up. And therefore I was, paradoxically, suddenly a lot faster. I might switch to hand sanding on the other blade sooner.

After 1000 grit I went for buffing wheels. Buffing a blade like this is not optimal and if I did not mess up the grind on belt grinder so often as I did, I would not go for it and I would polish it up to 7000 grit sandpaper. However buffing has one advantage, besides being fast – it hides and smoothens slight imperfections on the bevels by ever so slightly rounding up the ridges. Which is also the reason why I normally would not go for buffing for a blade like this.

This is the blade that goes to the customer. Next weekend I will hopefully finish the second one and then I can start on the accessories.

But after I am done with currently started projects, I will definitively make a batch of these. It is a complicated shape, and thus an excellent exercise.