An Invitation to Walk and Dance

Nightjar was recently responsible for taking the photographs of a play put on by a local theatre group. The pictures are a departure from Nightjar’s usual style of photography and I think they’re fabulous. They’re storytelling photos that give a real sense of the mood and setting for the play. We’ll be sharing them over the next 3 days and I know you’ll enjoy them, too. I’ll let Nightjar take it from here:

As you may know I was recently responsible for the photography of a theatre play created by the local amateur theatre group. I will not be sharing photos of the actors, but I’ve selected 12 other photos to give you all a taste of what it was like! I divided them in three parts and added some context. I hope you enjoy!


Part 1 – An Invite to Walk and to Dance

The play starts in the village’s fountain with a short scene where the public is invited to walk along streets they walk along everyday. The actress is barefoot through most of the scene and walks the shoes you see here with her hands. She introduces five guides and tells the audience which one to follow. Each group will walk down a different path, but they will all see the same scenes (just in a different order). Before leaving the public is left with a question… can this familiar place still surprise or move us?

(photo 1)  ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Making Kitchen Knives – Part 6 – Basic Shaping of the Handle

I have decided to make the handle on this knife from an old piece of wood I have cut from a palette that stood outside for quite a while. I do not know what wood it is, I suspect birch. It is extremely weathered and looks kinda crap. But there is a trick to make such old wood look very fancy.

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

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

I have done most of the work per hand, first splitting the piece of wood along the visible crack, then cutting it with small hand-held saw to very roughly the final shape and drilling the holes for pins. So far this work was pretty uneventful and straightforward.

As you can see on the picture on the right, I have fixed the two halves with screws to make the final shaping. This is where things stopped being uneventful. The wood was not overly hard, but it was very tough and I could not shape it on the big belt sander because that is running too fast and the wood tended to gum up the belt and burn. So I have been stuck with using handheld tools. I thought that it is not a problem because I expected to do it quickly even so.

I was wrong. It took me 1:50, or 110 minutes, to get the handle scales into a nearly finished shape. I should have used my small belt sander, it has slower running belt and is better suited for wood.

Of course it would not be nearly as long work if I have made ordinary rectangular handle and not this ergonomically shaped one. However I consider the handle shape to be an important, even defining, component of this design. Simplifying the handle shape in the name of saving time would in my opinion strip the product of its uniqueness and I see no point in hand-made completely generic knives.

I think that I could reduce this work significantly by working on multiple knives at once, cutting the outlines with band saw and rough shaping with the small belt sander. Due to confined space in my workshop I need some time for setting those two devices up so it is not always worth for a one-off action. But should I prepare say 20 handle scales in one go, It would certainly be worth it.

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

Before proceeding to finishing the handle I had to use my magic trick to improve the looks of the wood. That trick is called “ammonia fuming” and consists of putting the scales into a big jam-jar with a bit of ammonia solution and leave them in it overnight of for a few days, depending on what your goal is – the longer the wood is in the ammonia, the darker it will become.

In this specific instance I have left the wood sit directly in the ammonia solution, letting it to soak it up. It is also possible for example to only let the wood above the solution in the fumes (hence the name).

I have experimented in the past with multiple solution treatments and I have at my disposal a few such processes to alter the wood to warying degrees – from mild color change to actually making the wood compacted and a lot harder. The advantage of these methods over staining the wood with a dye is that the color change goes deep into the wood so it does not get scratched off. It also looks a lot more natural in my opinion.

However, to wrap up, this step took more time than I expected it to, but I think I can put it in “low hanging fruit” basket, because I expect working in bulk should reduce time here significantly and I already have the machinery necessary for that.

Slavic Saturday

I was actually thinking whether this would be better suited here or in the “Behind the Iron Curtain” series and I decided for putting it here.

Former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic has had a great tradition of stop-motion capture movies and one of its pinnacles was a series of short stories for children that was so succesful that it runs until today. The series started the same year I was born, and one of my favourite episodes “Tapety” (Wallpapers) is just three years younger. The series was originally named “A je to!” (It’s done!) and was aired in the evenings as a bed-time story for children.

You can enjoy this series no matter your native language since there are exactly zero words spoken. If you spend bing watching multiple episodes, feel free to blame me.

You live, you learn…

Well, my latest resin project didn’t go that well. I wanted to created little snowglobes using wooden deco elements. The idea was to pour the lower half of the moulds, wait some time until the pot time is over, push the elements into the resin, let cure, add the top half, add a wooden base, be happy.

Assorted wood deco

©Giliell, all rights reserved

As you can imagine, reality had other plans. First of all the resin was still too soft to hold up the deco elements. The right moment would probably have been 5 minutes in the middle of the night.

I tried to stabilize them with bamboo skewers, but it was less than optimal.

half poured resin

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The next day I added the top half. The hole is pretty small so I needed a syringe to put in the resin. Usually the two half separated a few times during the process and were a pain to put together again.

First of all, that introduced way too much air, second of all, I added too much glitter.

The results are sad. Very sad.

failed snowglobes

©Giliell, all rights reserved

But I’m not giving up just yet. For the next trial I’ll do the following: I’ll cut off part of the top half so I get a bigger opening. I will then glue the halves together so they won’t separate. And I already glued the deco to the wooden platforms. I’ll pour the globes in one go (with less glitter) and then push in the elements and just let the base close the mould.


But in the meantime I had fun with the kids and my friends and we made many nice things.

Selection of resin objects

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My favourite one is the under water scenery, which I promptly turned into a necklace:

resin necklace with seashell and plants

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The plants are some fern which I collected and dried last week.

Glorious Shoes

Opus has sent us another colourful treat. This time it’s shoes and they are wonderful. It’s no secret that I love shoes, but I could never hope to have shoes quite this wonderful. They’re bright, bold and such interesting designs. Opus says,

More pictures, this time from Reykjavik.  Shooting through glass is tough, but I think they worked out well.  More of the sights that one sees when traveling with fabric artists.  I might never have noticed if not for them.

Well, Opus, I think traveling with fabric artists is definitely a good thing, but your camera skills are what makes it all come alive in photos. Thanks so much for sharing.

©Opus, all rights reserved

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Jack’s Walk


The last rose of October, ©voyager, all rights reserved

October roses are always a welcome sight, but this bright pink beauty is the last one left in my garden. There are no new buds left and the plant is getting ready to go to sleep for the winter. Sometimes I think it would be nice if I could sleep through winter. I have enough of a fat pad to survive hibernation for a few months and it might be nice to avoid the days upon days of darkness and cold. On the other hand, I would also miss Jack pouncing like a cat into snowbanks and making happy faces full of frost. Winter is Jack’s favourite season. He loves the cold and would stay outside for hours if only someone stayed with him. He has been known to crawl into the creek when it’s full of floating ice and drift downstream with a look close to ecstasy on his face. Jack’s fur is very seal-like. Only the outside hairs get wet and even when he’s been in the water for an hour the downy hairs below stay dry. He also has a bit of a fat pad and a big buoyant chest and, like all labs, his feet are webbed. The boy is built for swimming in the cold and he loves it.

Ah…that’s better. See what I did there? I just gave myself a reason to look forward to winter. I promise I’ll share pictures so you can have a reason to look forward to winter too.

Making Kitchen Knives – Part 5 – Grinding, Polishing, Buffing

I was expecting this to be the most time-consuming part and so far I was not surprised – it was. You have seen my collection of abrasive belts during my Rondel Dagger series. Because the protective coating has proved itself to be way too persistent, I had to start with the coarsest Zircon belt all over again – that is what I meant when saying that I could have spared myself the trouble I have spent with finer belts before hardening. I wanted to give this blade the best surface finish that I can achieve purely by using machinery, so I went thoroughly through all belts, not switching to a higher one unless all scratches from the previous one were removed. Although towards the end of the line with last two Trizact belts I was not too fussy about this, because those leave so fine scratches that whilst they are barely visible, but they will always be somewhat visible unless I go with hand polishing afterwards – and that I did not want to.

So when finished with the finest Trizact belt I went straight to the finest buffing compound and gave the blade a few passes on the buffing wheel.

An important note – this is a knife without secondary bevel, with so-called “convex grind”. That means that during the polishing process the blade is also sharpened to very nearly final stage. Therefore towards the end it becomes a bit dangerous to handle it, because it can actually become completely sharp in places. I do not know what process other knifemakers use for achieving this grind, I am doing it with the slackbelt/hardbelt setup on my belt grander, that way I can do it in one go during polishing. The knife will need some sharpening when finished, but not too much. I like this grind because in my experience it cuts best and also looks best – but your mileage might vary and there is no accounting for personal taste.

speaking of taste – one of my friends when I have shown him my mother’s knife thought that I have made the tip round either due to laziness or because I botched it and making a round tip is easier. If you have such thoughts, forget them. Making a round tip is not easier than making it pointy-stabby. And the round tip is entirely intentional. This time around I actually consulted with my mother what she prefers for this knife design and I discussed with her the work in progress when it still had a point, and we agreed that to us this knife looks better with a round tip. Further, there is no point in having a point on an all-purpose kitchen knife like this, since needing a sharp point is actually a rare occurrence (the only one that I remember from the top of my head is gutting fish and poultry, and even there an actual point is used only briefly).

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

Enough rambling  Here you can see the blade before buffing to get a measure of how well the knife is polished after only Trizact belt grinding – after buffing it reflects a lot more.

That picture shows also that the grind is acceptably flat. The fact that the edges of the mirror on the wall are straight-ish and that my face is still recognizable despite being reflected back through a mirror 1,5 meter away is a good sign that the grind is flat.

However that comes at a non-trivial price. The whole grinding and polishing process took me 4:20 or 260 minutes. Buffing was mere 10 minutes from that. As I become more experienced this time will probably go down significantly, but some of that part of learning curve I have already done, so I do not think it will be too drastic. In order to shave-off a really significant amount of time here, I think I would have to either use completely different process (I have an idea there, but it will need a lot of MacGyvering), or be content with a less-than-mirror finish. So in next step I will experiment with different finishes and decide which is the best compromise between time spent versus looks. The problem with polishing is, that whilst it has zero negative impact on the function, it has 100% positive impact on the looks of the thing and negative on the price. And people are buying with their eyes but deciding with their wallets. Talk about contradictory requirements…

Tree Tuesday

A while back I recall a conversation in comments where rq mentioned that the trees dance when no-one is looking. Well, for this Tree Tuesday Lofty has found a tree that’s dancing when everyone is looking. Lofty says,

Another Eucalypt from my favourite bicycle riding area, it’s “doing the twist”!

That it is, Lofty. What a marvelous tree. Thanks for sharing.

Twistree ©Lofty, all rights reserved

Making Kitchen Knives – Part 4 – Heat Treatment

This is when things did go a bit pear-shaped, although I learned that only today. You have seen my “equipment” before, but not in detail. Now you can see it in detail. An IR thermometer on the left, small insulated chamber with gas burner in the middle, a can of sunflower oil, and of course gloves and pliers.

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

With a blade this thin I have to somehow prevent carbon loss, because I cannot simply ground away a few tenths of a mm afterwards. There would be barely any blade left if I did that. So, as you can see on the last picture in previous post in the series, I tried to coat it with an experimental solution to prevent said carbon loss as an alternative to the rather expensive stainless steel foil. It worked and did not work at the same time and the knife is now in a stage when it will be crap no matter what I do. I am going to finish it anyway, just to get the measure of time, but this step was a definitive flop. Which I did not expect, because I heat-treated two knives from this steel without problems.


Firstly the gas burner has trouble reaching the necessary temperature of 1.050°C that this steel requires. It can reach them with success (the blade that I have given to my mother was hardened this way), but it takes a long time and it is difficult to heat up the blade evenly. I thought that I have reached the right temperature and quenched the blade OK, which was confirmed by subsequent scratch test with my impromptu gauges. However, as it turned out, the scratch test only passed because the protective coating has made a thin but hard layer on the surface that was bugger all to remove.

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

I hoped it would dissolve in hot water – that was the intention – but it did not. It was extremely difficult to clean off in the following step and after I measured the hardness on polished blade (properly – I found out we have HRC measurement at work), it had only about 50-51 HRC. That is weaksauce for a kitchen knife, although it would be OK for a machete. The blade is hardened, just not to its fullest potential. It will cut fine, but it will require more maintenance, so I will probably keep this knife for myself and not give it to anyone. Bugger.

In addition to above mentioned quality problems, this whole step took me more than 1 hour, and I am not counting the 1 hour in baking oven at 150°C, because that does not require my personal presence and thus does not de-facto cut into manufacturing time (and I can load the baking oven with 10 knives at once should the need arise).

At this moment, I do not see any way how to reduce that time. Making more knives at once might help a bit, but for that I would need to set-up heating with charcoal. If I do that, I  estimate that I could harden about 5-6 knives in one go, but that one go would take probably about 3-4 hours of constant work. So a saving of 15 minutes, or 25% time per blade could perhaps be reached on this step, but it is questionable.

A heat treating oven would of course completely change this whole equation, but that would be a big investment – they start at 3.000,-€. Should I ever have to produce knives for sale, a heat treating oven would be a definitive must, or I would have to simply send knives for heat-treatment. Right now I will try to do the heat treatment again by myself, and the next batch of knives will be split 50/50. One half hardened with the use of stainless steel foil, one half with modified coating, and I will either set-up a bigger gas burner, or use charcoal.

This step is put in the “high hanging fruit” basket. There is potential for significant time-saving here, but it is very difficult to reach with my current equipment.

A Stunning Little Dragon

These incredible photos were sent to us by Avalus. The first time I saw them I just sat there scrolling back and forth taking in more and more detail.  The first shot is all about camouflage, but after that it’s all about standing out. It’s a wonder filled study of a beautiful creature. Avalus says,

this encounter I found the most impressing. It was a really large dragonfly, just sitting on a mossy patch of sidewalk in the botanical garden of my University. She did not mind me in the slightest and I could take pictures from a few centimetres away. 

She did stick her abdomen in the moss repeatedly, so maybe she layed eggs? There was a pond-flowerbed maybe 20 cm away.

The finger is for size, I did not touch her.

As you can see in picture 11, it is a beauty and a beast (if you happen the be a insect)!

Avalus, thank you so much for sharing.


libelle 1, ©Avalus, all rights reserved

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Making Kitchen Knives – Part 3 – Basic Grind

This is the part where work on more blades in parallel is no more possible, but I have tested an improvement that I have hoped for to both save time and increase precision. Grinding symmetrically free hand a blade mere 1,8 mm thick would not be easy. My previous knife of this type was made from 2,5  mm steel and I messed up the grind. I have spent more time correcting my messed up grind than I liked to and in the end I had to opt for a blade without a clear transition between the blade and a ricasso.

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

I wanted to do better this time, so I have built an experimental jig. As you can see on the picture, it is a simple 30×50 mm block of hardwood (a leftover from building the belt grinder). Two screws hold the knife on the smaller side, and three screws are right on the edge opposite the knife. Those three screws pop out a bit out of the wood and by how much they pop out is how big an angle I have between the blade and the platen on the belt grinder.

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

I did not make a picture on the belt grinder, but you can see on the right the jig with a blade put against a machinist’s square. The advantage of this setup is that if I want, for example, ~0,3 mm thick edge before hardening and with the blade being ground all the way to the back, I know that I have to set the jig so that there is ~0,70 mm between the square and the back of the blade. Which is exactly what I have done, only without measuring, only eyeballing the gap and deciding “yup, that is what I want”.

The jig is set up so that I can screw the blade in two mirroring positions, but I did not bother too much with precision, because I did not know yet whether it will work or not.

It worked, but the imprecision was abit of a problem, as well as the way the blade is fixed. Two main problems occurred:

  1. The tip of the blade lay on the supporting table. That proved to be a problem, because it got snatched by the belt and dragged into the gap between the belt and the table. It messed up the grind in split of a second and I have spent no trivial ammount of time correcting it.
  2. Changing the blade on the jig took way too much time, even with accu-screwdriver. Part of the problem was the imprecision, because I had to monkey with it each and every time to get it right.

So a more precise jig that allows fro quicker change is required, and it also should hold the blade at least a few mm above the supporting table for better control. As a proof of concept it worked, it did indeed improve precision, but there is potential

During the grind I have made one time-wasting mistake, but I did not know at the time it is such. After I have established the grind with ceramic belts which go up to 120 grit, I continued to 240 grit on Zircon-carbide belts. As it turned out,  I could have spared myself those zircon belts alltogether, but more about that next time.

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

I forgot to make a picture of the ground blade, but here you can see it as it went into the next step in the process. You can see that I have managed nice clean line all the way to the back of the blade, which I was previously not able to do free hand.

The time spent with this was about 1:15, or 75 minutes. From that time I have spent approximately 10-15 minutes monkeying around with fixing the blade on the jig, and another 5-15 minutes changing belts on the grinder. I also wasted some time correcting messed up grinds. I think that a better jig and above all not going above the ceramic belts should cut this time in maybe a half, but probably not more – it is fidly work and probably the biggest factor is experience. I remember Walter Sorrels saying in one of his videos that he manages this in 10 minutes, but only because he has been doing it for years.

Right now I am putting it into the “low hanging” fruit basket, because I think I can easily get a significant 15-20 min improvement through better jig and not going too fine with the belts. The rest is, unfortunately, entirely dependent on how fast I will scale the learning curve.


I poured another batch of resin last night.

I stirred it, and I stirred it, and then I stirred it some more and it went much better.

First you can see my prepared wood pieces. I wrapped some laminated foil around them and secured it with tape. That was a good idea.

Wooden dowels

Beech and fir, broken off and wrapped.
©Giliell, all rights reserved

My workspace all set up before the pouring. I used the little cups from a sweet to dye some resin.

work surface with equipment for resin

©Giliell, all rights reserved

That’s waht it looked like afterwards

Messy workspace

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Oh, wait, did you want to see the results?

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