… Springtime, by Alfred Sisley.
I have a fifty tits of grey post lined up, but a quick interlude about predators, social birds, and cooperation.
I think I didn’t mention it here, but this winter, I started leaving walnuts out for the crows – leftovers from years past that we found in the storage room, but still good. To be honest, this started when I noticed a ragtag group of corvids (crows, jays and magpies – not explaining the word ‘corvid’, all three were members of this loose affiliation of walnut aficionados) eating the few nuts we had straight from the tree. It was a small crop anyway, so I don’t feel too bitter about it…
Anyway, I started feeding them through the cold snowy months, and while the jays and magpies haven’t been sticking around, there’s a small flock of 4 or 5 crows (family group?) that regularly cleans out the (much cheaper, if buying) peanuts.
Somebody somewhere in the comment section (I think on Marcus’s blog) expressed dislike for resin stabilized wood along the lines that it is the same as making the handles out of plastic. I disagree. Stabilized wood is a pain to work because it behaves like plastic in that regard, but it does not look like plastic and neither does it feel like plastic in the hand – it feels like wood. And as I was working on this project, I found out that it even sounds like wood – stabilized pieces give out very nice clonk-clonk when hit against each other. I think it might be possible to make musical instruments out of it, but I won’t try.
However, before said wood reaches its desired stabilized state, I have to work with epoxy resin. Lots of it.
I hate it.
It is gluey, it sticks to absolutely everything and it is transparent, so when it drops somewhere it is difficult to see in time. Tools and surfaces need to be cleaned with paper towels soaked in denatured alcohol, which is not cheap and the fumes do not smell exactly delicious. And the work needs to be done fast, because if the epoxy gels, it won’t soak into the wood no more.
With my macgyered vacuum pump I have reached a vacuum of 0,2-0,3 bar, which was sufficient for extremely porous wood, but might not be sufficient for this. Applewood has very small pores and is very hard, even the very decomposed pieces were still harder than for example poplar or basswood. So I have decided to bite the bullet and buy a small, cheap vacuum pump in the hope that it will work better. And it does – and it does not.
Even with my poorly sealed pickle jar, I have easily reached vacuum 0,6 bar within a minute. The wood released so many bubbles that the resin developed foam head like beer.
However, the pump also got very hot after a few minutes of running, which made me a bit worried. My macgyvered pump was a bit cumbersome and awkward, but overheating was completely a non-issue. I am not so sure about this one. I hope it does not burn out before I at least get to sell some knives.
Overheating aside, the wood soaked up the resin very nicely and although I have only used clear resin, it developed very nice and pleasant colors. The resin would cure over time at room temperature, but it is possible to speed up the curing by heating it to 60-80°C. So I did that the next day and I baked the pieces for two hours, after which I could appreciate the nice clonk-clonk that I was talking about at the beginning.
I have also approached the issue a bit more scientifically this time and I have weighed all the pieces before and after. Here you can see the results.
This made me very happy with the results. The relatively healthy wood has gained approx 30% in weight, the not-very-much rotten root wood doubled its weight and the more decomposed wood has almost tripled its weight. All pieces of similar size weighed approximately the same after the stabilizing process, irrespective of what wood they were made of. And finally, all pieces when put in water either sunk completely or just barely floated with 99% submerged. So even the relatively healthy wood should be soaked up with resin to sufficient depth.
Now that the wood is stabilized, the only thing that is left is to psych myself up to go into the freezing workshop and finish the knives. Which includes first a bit of grinding and drilling, and then a lot of gluing. Even more fun with epoxy awaits, hooray!
I’ve mentioned it a few times, Germany has decided to sacrifice its teachers on the altar of keeping businesses open. Bavaria’s prime minister explicitly said that schools and daycares must be kept open so parents can go to work.
This also means we’re not going back to a hybrid system like before the summer holidays with two days at school, in small, distanced groups, and Homeschooling for the rest of the week.
This also means we’re combining the 3Cs in an unholy trinity : closed space, crowded settings, close contact. By now we’re all convinced that it isn’t a question of we’ll catch Covid, but when.
It was kind of a wonder that we escaped our first case for so long. This week it happened and now guess who covered for a colleague in that class on Thursday. But for some reason that was the day I decided it was time to break out one of the 5 KN95 masks the Ministry so kindly provided. Haha. So I should be safe, and I don’t have to go into quarantine.
It’s rare for me to like pics of myself. There are hardly any anyway, because I’m usually the camera person, but Candy has gotten me to take selfies. Also, the light in the degu run is pretty flattering, I think, and the degus make me happy, so who cares for the double chin when you got happiness?
Estelle is definitely getting more trusting. She comes out almost immediately now, puts her tiny feetses on me and takes treats. Oh, and tries whether my thumb is edible… She is also clearly the clumsy one. Where Candy has added the top of the side track to her territory, Estelle just makes it on top of the box next to it, doesn’t manage to get up and then does a half climb, half jump, half fall off it again. Yes, three halves, that’s how clumsy she is.
They still make me think of Caine and her kingdom of rats a lot. She would be absolutely delighted with the degus.