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 chess.com 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. Chess.com evaluated the situation and banned the suspected cheater, thus turning him from suspected cheater to confirmed cheater.

Chess.com 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 chess.com 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 chess.com 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.

Greenfinches

These grumpy-looking beauties used to be pretty common, coming to the feeder in flocks of over ten. Last year I have only seen one over the course of the whole winter. This year they returned, although not in as big flocks as previously.

All birds of genus Carduelis were rare last year, allegedly afflicted by some virus.

© 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

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

 

 

Good News! Partially.

Today I took my father to the hospital for six-week-long radiation therapy. From that, you can guess that he is not going there with a nasty cold. I do hope his prospects are good, the tumor is well defined and there are no signs of it metastasizing anywhere in the body. There are several problems though – his age, his heart, and his overweight. I won’t be particularly well-off, mentally, for the whole time probably.

But the genuinely good news is that my mother got today her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine and is scheduled for her second shot in three weeks. Our government seems to be slowly getting its act almost together at least on this issue and the vaccinations are starting to roll more than just a few people a week.

Another good news is that my sister has had Covid without even noticing it. She was tested due to an unrelated health problem and it was found that she has antibodies. She was a high-risk person (autoimmune disease, severely damaged lungs, asthma), and she had a really, really bad bout with the 2009 pandemic swine flu. She was isolating as much as possible and wearing a mask whenever she could, so probably she caught a very low dose of the virus – not so low as to not develop immunity, but low enough to not cause anything more severe than a runny nose for a few days.

So my worries are at least a bit alleviated with regard to two members of the family.

Not a Mistake, Just a Smaller Knife…

… but by no means a small knife.

Harvesting firewood from my coppice is a yearly task that requires a lot of chopping off thin branches and twigs. Currently, I am using an old chef’s knife for that, but it is getting pretty warped and worn-out because it was not meant for that kind of work. And a hatchet is too unwieldy for it.

So two years ago I tried to make a machete. And I failed completely, the blade warped in quench and subsequently snapped when I tried to straighten it. It broke near the handle, so I had a relatively big chunk of straight blade left, but I did not know what exactly to do with it and I had better work to do anyway, so I have just used it for various experiments – for etching and tumbling tests, etc. I learned a lot from the piece for my future projects, so it was not completely wasted. But it was still big enough to make a knife, and the surface was so pitted now that it was no longer suitable for tests. So I have decided to make a knife out of it after all.

I annealed about one-third and cut the tang out of it, then I have put the now 17 cm long blade in the tumbler with fine sand and let it run for a few days to clean the surface of most of the corrosion, although the pitting of course remained. I did not polish the blade afterward to remove the pitting since that would make it really thin. Instead, I have dunked it overnight in tannic acid (or, as per Marcus, Oak Drop Soup). It got a nice dark-grey-blue coating that way and a really mean rustic look. In combination with linseed oil, it should provide moderately durable and strong corrosion resistance. Only I forgot to etch a logo in it before doing all that, and now I can’t, so the blade is unsigned.

The handguard is from bronze and old bone, the handle from pickled black locust. When I am making sheaths, I will make one for this too. I must confess – I did not do a very good fitting job on the handguard, I did not want to waste too much time on this. And I have decided to let the bronze get a natural patina over time for the same reason. But since this is a working knife for me, any flaws are not a problem since nobody ever will complain.

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I think it looks kind of nice and I am considering adding this type of knife to my repertoire as a bushcraft knife, with only slight changes in construction (full-tang instead of hidden tang). I am also considering adding a lanyard, although it is secure enough in the hand with this handle-shape.  I have already tested it for its intended purpose and the blade coating is resistant enough to withstand wood-chopping. And if it rubs-off, it is easy to reapply. I really like how this turned out and I am glad I did not simply toss it on the scrap pile.

 

Bobbin Lace, Pandemics and Christian Morals

You may be justifiably baffled about the title – what do these three things have in common? And, understandably, you probably can’t guess the correct answer. Because that answer is my maternal grandmother.

I have never met any of my grandparents, all except my grandfather died before my parents even met, and my grandfather has died when I was merely three years old. So I know very little about any of them, except for what my parents have told me. And today I would like to share a story about how the bobbin-lace-making tradition started in our family. It is not a nice story.

My grandmother has broken her leg during play when she was four, she fell from a haywagon and her leg got between the spokes of the wheel. Her parents wanted to take her to the hospital, but her father’s mother has refused to pay for it, saying that God will take care of things. He did not. In fact, it got worse to a point that when they finally did go to the hospital, it was too late and the leg was beyond repair. It stopped growing and no attempts at mending it worked, including a graft of healthy bone from the other leg.

A few years later, when my grandmother was seven years old, the Spanis-flu pandemics has broken out and her mother got sick. She was delirious from fever and kept hugging my grandmother saying “My poor child, if I die, I want you to die with me, they will torture you when I am gone.”  Unfortunately, she died and…

From what I gather, my grandmother’s father was a mild-mannered man. A gamekeeper who preferred the quiet of the forests to people. He was not very keen on religious practice, saying that he meets with God in the forests and does not need to go to church. But at home, he was completely in tow of his abusive, miserly, and religiously devout catholic mother, who ruled the family with an iron hand. They lived at a homestead, and that means a lot of work needs to be done on daily basis. Oftentimes hard work even for healthy people.  And everyone was expected to do their share. My grandmother had three healthy sisters, and she was constantly shunned and mocked for not being able to work properly. At one point her grandmother has refused to “feed the cripple any longer” and when she was eleven years old, she was sent to a cloister.

A cloister that was adjacent to a castle and has provided a lot of free-child-labor to the said castle. My grandmother was of course not suitable for many works, but she was very apt with her hands, and she learned several useful crafts there. Including bobbin-lace making – the cloister made bobbin-lace for the countess. She liked those crafts, but my guess is she would probably like them better if they did not come with a sidedish of beatings and hunger as a punishment for not meeting the daily quota of work.

At seventeen years old she was poised to become a nun, but this is when her luck finally broke for better. An employee of a mask and wig lending shop from a big city was shortly at the cloister and she noticed the exceptional skill of my grandmother. And she asked her if she would like to come to the big city to work at the company. And she did. But she was not of age yet, so she needed consent from her father to go.

The parish priest had a bad conscience with regard to her, for not putting pressure on her grandmother to send her to hospital in time. And one nun has liked her and wanted for her a better future than the cloister. So they conspired to prepare the paperwork and catch her father at the marketplace, where he went alone without being supervised by the abusive family matriarch. And he signed the papers without arguing.

And that way my grandmother escaped abuse and finally got to live on her own. Two years later her bad leg had to be amputated, but she got on to live a happy (for the times – WW2, then totalitarian communist rule etc.) life. And she kept making bobbin lace and passed the craft onto one of her daughters. Who passed it onto me, where it stops.

Today, my mother has finished another of her masterpieces. A round tablecloth, 80 cm across. She worked on it for 220 hours and has used 1530 m of thread. It is beautiful and I do wish I had a cheerier story to tell with it.

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TNET 44: Manscaped

I am not going to embed any of those or link to their site, but I have got an awful lot of ads on YouTube lately for the products in the title and I totally do not get it. Like, at all, on so, so many levels. It is a male-centered effort similar to the one that convinced women they should shave their legs.

At some time in our evolution, our species has decided for selecting for hair that grows almost indefinitely on our heads and to a very limited degree on other parts. It is a sad fact that cutting/trimming or excessively grooming head and facial hair is a necessity, otherwise it would get too big and entangled and would impede normal function. Those are our species’ equivalent of peacock’s tails or irish elk’s antlers. And I do get why someone would opt for regular shaving instead of regular trimming for whatever reasons – convenience, aesthetic preference etc. We have to chose there one of several options.

But I completely do not get why I should shave my chest or my groin. And I won’t. Regular hygiene is sufficient to keep me comfy and non-smelly and there is absolutely no health benefit to shaving body hair. In my case, there is even a downside which also the reason why I have a beard – I have sensitive skin and I react badly to shaving. However, that is not the point. We are the only species that is capable to alter or even downright mutilate perfectly healthy bodies for mere fashion. I will never understand why some people feel the need to inject pigment into healthy skin, or pierce and cut healthy functional organs in order to put pieces of metal in them. Oftentimes in a manner that impedes normal functioning and sometimes even endangers health.

I am not saying people should not be allowed to shave their balls, tatoo their faces, or pierce their tongues. Your body, your choice, just do not expect a compliment from me and we will get along just fine. But I find it ridiculous if it is a personal choice, doubly ridiculous if it is a fashion trend and several orders of magnitudes ridiculous if it is a concentrated effort of a company to sell me products that I neither need nor want. Unfortunately, they will probably succeed in convincing some, even though not me personally.

Open thread, you can talk whatever you want, under the condition of not being an asshole.

Previous thread.

Branding Stamp

I am finishing the kitchen-knives sets, and one of the tools that I was still missing in my toolbox was a branding stamp that could be used for wood and leather. For leather, I have used an impromptu one made from wood stabilized with epoxy, but that cannot be used to brand wood of course. But when making that I have figured out a process that could be also applied to making one out of steel, so after a lot of procrastinating the task, today I have finally bitten the bullet and took the two hours it needed.

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The handle is from an extremely old and out-of-shape potato peeler. Maybe even antique, but I know of no museum that would take it of my hands so I have recycled it. The screw is recycled from old furniture. The stamp itself is from tool steel, although I will not be hardening it.

I could not tap the hole in the stamp very deep and well without re-grinding and thus destroying the taps, because standard taps need to go through.  Thus I could not cut very good threads in there, just two turns of half-assed ones. But that should not be a problem, a few dents for the thread to latch on to should suffice, friction should take care of the rest. It is not supposed to come apart, and if it comes apart, I will braze it.

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The one advantage of having a logo consisting of only straight lines is that it made the job relatively easy. A bit of filing, a bit of grinding with an angle-grinder, and here we go. Up close there are some flaws and the width to height ratio is a tiny bit off, but that is just life. I have tossed one attempt due to flaws, but I think this one will do.

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Wood branding is not an exact science, there will always be some irregularities. But with some practice, I should get crisp and nice logos that can be placed even in visible areas. Which is my intention.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

And there is absolutely no doubt that on leather, the results are way, way better than those I got with my wood-carved impromptu stamp.

I may give it a go one more time to get the proportions better, but in the meantime, I am going to use this one. I doubt anyone will complain about it.