Showing off My Wood – Part 2

I should have put aside some offcuts from each species for testing various treatments (above all ammonia and bleaching) and for making a catalog on my website so potential customers have something to choose from. I should have done that, but I did not because I did not think that far ahead. All the offcuts are in bags for use as firewood. Over fifty bags to be imprecise. Enough wood to heat the house for a month in moderately cold weather. In this regard, the work has already saved me some money.

I do hope that when it comes to making knives, and perhaps other things, I will now be able to work much more efficiently because I have immediately usable wood at hand in suitable quantities and I do not need to dick around with a chainsaw and table saw to make a single knife anymore. And as far as the testing and cataloging go, all is not lost yet. Not only will a lot of wood still be cut away in work, but I am also the one who does the heating, and thus I will have plenty of opportunities to get through those offcuts again.

So let us dive into what else I have in my stockpile now.


Juniper (Juniperus sp.)

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

I have two boxes of wood that is probably from either Juniperus chinensis or Juniperus x media or both. Some I have got from my cousin, and some I have found in various places when people tossed away trees that they cut in their garden (yes, that happens).

I do not have big enough pieces to make knife blocks, maybe one when used as a veneer. So most of this will probably be made into handles. You have seen how it looks already on my not a masterpiece. It is light, soft, homogenous wood with nice creamy white sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood. I suspect ammonia would probably just turn it into brown, in my experience that often happens with darker woods. I might test that if I fish out some offcut from the bags, but the wood is very beautiful as it is.


Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

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

I have a few small boxes and some bundles of slightly insect and fungus-damaged ash. That will probably be used for knives and maybe even for blocks. I did not test it personally yet, but allegedly ash turns grey in ammonia, which could be interesting. On its own the wood is not particularly remarkable, it is white and it turns yellow with age. Like oak, it has a distinct pattern of alternating small and big pores. I might try to bleach it and infuse it with UV-stabilized resin so it stays white. My sister-in-law has said that white might be fashionable for some people, but there are not very many non-synthetic white materials out there.

I had put aside one huge log when a friend of mine got permit to fell a huge ash tree in his garden over a decade ago. I was afraid that it was destroyed by wood borers.

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

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

I was lucky. The wood borers only ate the bark, the wood underneath was completely healthy. This won’t be used for knives, at least not if I don’t have to do it. This is top-notch wood for the ax, hatchet, and hammer handles. The only other wood that is better for that purpose is hickory, and that does not grow around here.  Besides these huge pieces I have also several smaller and shorter ones, so I won’t need to buy a hammer handle ever again.


Jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril)

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A few days were spent not cutting but sorting my unexpected treasure pile. I have probably over half a cubic meter of jatoba wood. Enough to make thousands of knives, if I made only knives out of it. So I will also make knife blocks, end-grain cutting boards, and maybe other things too. I have big plans, and I do hope to live to fulfill at least some of them.

It is an extremely hard and dense wood, very difficult to work with but it should also be very durable in the end product. It turns in ammonia to dark brown, almost black. I do not think the wood is improved that way so I probably won’t bother with it.

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Shame that in that huge amount of wood there were only several pieces that show the heartwood-sapwood boundary. And of those three show very interesting spalting patterns in the sapwood. I think these should be reserved for special occasions.


Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

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

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

White-yellowish wood with visible lignin rays on tangential cuts. It is reasonably hard with small pores, prone to burning when cut with a table saw – as you can see. Like ash, there is no visible difference between heartwood and sapwood. It stains well, but ammonia has no effect on it whatsoever. I have several pieces big enough to make knife blocs out of, especially if I use it as a veneer. I also have some spalted pieces in there, although so far nothing exceptional.

I have a huge log from my own garden that was half-eaten by ants and fungi. Unfortunately, I did not manage to cut it into prisms yet, so I do not know if it will be useful or not. Like all maples, sycamore is not very resistant to rot and insect damage, spalting in wood that was exposed to elements for any length of time is common.

Most of the sycamore wood I have gotten from one of my friends, whose parents felled a huge tree over twenty years ago. I helped with the work and got some wood in return. That is a recurring theme, as you can probably see by now. But I have also one huge plank (you can see it with the jatoba pile)- from the top of my head circa 30 x 50 mm and 1 m long – and I have absolutely no idea where I got that one. It looks like an offcut from a sawmill, but I never bought this wood at a sawmill. Well, the mystery will remain unsolved, I will probably make a nice knife bloc out of it.


Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra)

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The white insect-damaged bundle is from a tree that died standing in the forest from whence I have taken it a few years ago. The healthy wood underneath it is from a log that I have gotten from my friend more than two decades ago, from a tree in his garden.

I am bummed that I did not have a chance to get my hands on elm wood when elms were felled during road renovations around here. Felling elms should be criminal since they are very rare due to dutch elm disease. But if they have to be felled, it would be better to make them into something pretty than just burn them. It is not an exceptional wood, but it is not completely plain-looking either. It is hard and my table saw vas already blunt at this point because I have hit a stone in one of the rootballs. It would probably be excellent for end-grain cutting boards because it has interlocking grain and is thus resistant to splitting.


Meranti (Shorea sp.)

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A mystery wood that reader tuatara was kind enough to identify for me. It looks kinda like palm wood (for which I have initially mistaken it), other than that I know nothing about it. It is also similar to mahogany. I only have two pieces, so it will either go into handles or a two-knife kitchen set.

And with that, I am done for today but not done yet. There will be more.

A Big Commission – Part 2 – New Magnetic Thingamajig

My magnetic chuck for grinding bevels  works well and I am still using it but it is unsuitable for establishing the bevels on a huge blade like this. I have actually been thinking about this for some time, and the kukri commission was in the end just a suitable excuse to play for two days with magnets and exercise my grey matter a bit.

The thing I came up with was a combination of a magnetic jig and the sharpenatrix. That alone could not work because it does not allow me to get as close to the belt as I need. And also it has a fixed length, so in certain positions, the blade like the kukri would actually be partly above the tallest point on the belt. Thus I established that I need:

  1. a telescopic arm
  2. a switchable permanent magnet

Both of those things can be bought, sometimes even in conjunction. But they are really expensive and for my purposes, even the cheapest and smallest ones are needlessly bulky and heavy. Yes, at long last, finally a chance for me to just dick around with various scraps and it is really economic use of my time!

After some trial and error, I have gotten the best results with just two magnetic arrays from two broken speaker magnets and four flat pieces of mild steel from a broken clamp.

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The magnets are oriented in both arrays with the north in the same direction on both sides of the pipe in the middle. And since they were broken into irregular pieces, I have glued them in with a mixture of steel dust and epoxy to better facilitate the transfer of the magnetic field into the steel. With one exception – the side that is going to hold the workpiece has a bit of brass between the steel bars, so the magnetic field does not extend there all the way to the surface between them. The piece of stainless steel non-magnetic pipe in the middle allows me to connect the two magnets with an axis around which they can swivel freely. When the poles of both arrays are aligned, they repulse each other but the whole assembly sticks to steel on the sides very strongly. When they are misaligned, the whole thing is nearly non-magnetic all around.

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Here you can see me testing it. A threaded copper rod is fixed to one of the magnetic arrays and will connect it to the telescopic arm later on. A stainless, non-magnetic steel rod is also fixed (riveted) into that magnetic array. The second array can rotate freely on the top. At this stage, I got my first bonus – both extreme configurations are stable without the need for any mechanical locking mechanism and the outward magnetic force builds up/disappears quickly, not gradually.

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

Now you can see it nearly finished. The telescopic arm consists of several parts:

  1. the 8 mm copper rod with stainless steel nut fixed into the array
  2. thin 12 mm steel tube lined with 10 mm brass tube in the upper half to ensure a tight fit for the copper rod.
  3. 10 mm steel rod with thread at the end on which the ball from sharpenatrix can be screwed
  4. 2 screws go through threads in two pieces of thicker tube and through all the tubing to lock both the steel and the copper rods in fixed positions. There are brass inserts under each screw to ensure they do not scratch the surface of the rods. Hopefully.

The knob was only added so I do not poke myself with the sticking screw during work and it turned out to be a second bonus – it allows me to hold onto the blade with one hand and comfortably hold and switch on/off the magnet with the other.

With that, the arm was not finished yet, but it was functional, so I went on and tested it. And it worked really well. Not ideally, but it did help a lot, especially with a complicated grind like this. Kukri changes the blade width over the lenght of the blade, so to reduce the weight, keep it strong, and optimize the cutting capability towards the end of the blade the primary bevel has to be steeper on the wider portion of the blade than on the narrow part. So I had to grind it in two steps. The first step was to establish the less- steep bevel on the whole blade (approx 5°).

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The second step was to establish the steeper bevel on the wide portion of the blade whilst carefully feathering it into the narrow portion. The grind on the intermediate portions is a bit funny-shaped, which I will have to correct with a file. Later during polishing (this will only go to 100 or perhaps 120 grit), it will smoothen out, I did make blades like this already, although not of this size and not with a belt grinder.

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

I made this grind in about an hour, which is speedy, especially considering that I was working with a new jig. I slipped up on two parts on the other side before I figured out how to best use it, but nothing that would not be corrected in polishing.

As a final touch, I have encased both arrays in alluminium housing so they do not gather steel dust. And I painted ON/OFF markings with a sharpie to have visual clues during work.

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

If it were a bit stronger, I would not have those two slip-ups that I had, but it is strong enough to be useful – it has over 2,5 kg lifting force, which is in my opinion impressive given that the initial magnets on their own have barely lifted anything.

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

Overall I am very pleased with the result. I now know how to make small switchable permanent magnets. I still have some ordinary black magnets to play with, but I will probably also buy some small neodymium magnets and build myself a variety of magnetic holders with high force. Even a small flat magnetic plate can cost several hundred €. With some care and planning, I think I could make a useful one myself for a fraction of the cost in just a few days.

Showing off My Wood – Part 1

In case you have been wondering about what I was doing for these last two months, I was cutting wood.

I have not planned on making knives for a living, not consciously at least, but I have been hoarding various kinds of wood for crafting for over two decades by now. It was very disorganized, for some pieces I have never known the exact species and I had to guess it now with varying degrees of certainty, and most of it was not immediately useful – mostly logs and branches of various sizes and thicknesses. I wanted to cut the wood into prisms for a long time, but for that to happen I had to 1) have a saw that would allow me to do that and 2) the weather must be suitably dry but not extremely hot for a significant amount of time because I need to work outdoors, my shop is not big enough. And this year both of those things finally coincided. I have now a big-ish table saw and the weather was suitable long enough. I also had the additional incentive in the rising prices of firewood that I have mentioned previously.

Table saw is not ideal for this kind of work, a band saw would be better and safer. But I have managed it without an accident, all my appendages are still appendaged and I did not have any serious kickbacks (two moderate ones I admit) or even near-incidents either. I am terrified of tablesaws since childhood, so I am very, very careful around them. That is one of the reasons why it took me two months, appart from the huge amount of wood that I had to process – I have taken breaks whenever I felt that my attention begins to fade, which was after two hours of work at most.

So now let’s dive into it and show you my wood – in no particular order (actually the order is alphabetic but in Czech).

This will be a series, otherwise it would be waaay toooo loooong.


Black elder (Sambucus nigra)

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

Light-colored wood with small pores. Not very rot resistant, so many pieces have visible damage from fungus and insects – some in an interesting way, some might still just end up heating the house. I have a lot of it, even a lot of completely healthy pieces. When worked, it stinks to the high heavens. Finished wood has a nice creamy-white-yellow color, when treated with ammonia the yellow becomes even more pronounced, becoming canary yellow, almost light orange.


Birch (Betula pendula)

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

I do not have big enough pieces to make whole kitchen knife sets, but I have enough smaller pieces with an interesting small burl or wavy pattern to make several dozens of puukko and possibly some wooden jewelry too. I also have some pieces that might be worthy of a chef’s knife, but most of them will be puukko. Birch has creamy white wood, very hard but not rot-resistant. Ammonia does change it to light brown.

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

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

I also managed over the years to get my hands on a few impressively thick pieces of birch bark, not only the papery outer layer. The thick bark is very hard and it does have an interesting pattern. It can be a bit brittle under tension, but it holds up under compression well, so it can be used as a spacer between the bolster and the handle, or for stacking handles.


White Oak (Quercus sp.)

© 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 have a small box of handle scales cut out from crotch wood that I sorted out from firewood, although not very many. I also have a box of smaller pieces and several big-ish pieces of spalted and insect-damaged oak root balls from several smaller trees that died standing in the forest and I poached them from there several decades ago (it is legal to take dead wood from the forest here, but it must lay on the floor and only up to 7 cm in diameter). Those could make very interesting knives and knife blocks.

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

And then I have a big pile of prisms cut from an old church cross, here is just the tip of the woodberg. Enough for dozens of knives including blocks – from masive wood. This oak wood is mostly light brown, it can be made dark brown or nearly black with ammonia.


Garapa (Apuleia leiocarpa)

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I have written about this in one previous post. I am not 100% certain about having the species identified correctly, but this is very dense and very hard wood with tiny pores, which is typical for wood from the family Fabaceae. It looks very promising, but unfortunately, all the pieces are of the same dimensions – 30×30 mm. That limits the type and shape of the knife handle that I can make. Even so, I do have enough for several knife sets including blocs. I have no idea how it behaves and how it reacts to ammonia treatment, I will have to find out.


Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)

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I was surprised to find this wood in my pile. I have no idea where and how I got it, it was probably in the pile of wood that I got from my cousin about twenty years ago. He worked at that time in park maintenance and got his hands on various species. It is hard and dense wood, but that is all I know, I haven’t made anything from it yet. One of my neighbors has several relatively freshly dead hawthorn trees on his property, I consider asking him if I could have some of them for crafting. It appears to be moderately interesting wood.


Apple (Malus domestica)

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I have one small box of smaller pieces of burl, root, and crotch wood. There could be some very interesting knife handles in there.

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

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

I also have a lot of healthy apple wood, enough for several knife blocks and dozens of knives. But I will probably use it as a veneer for the blocks, I do not have that much. It is very prone to insect and fungus damage, so I had to toss a lot of it. But there is an upside to that too.

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

The upside is that I have several huge pieces of interestingly colored spalted apple wood, enough for luxury high-end cutlery sets. I am doing some research in that regard and I am coming to interesting – and favorable – conclusions.

Apple has small pores and not very distinct growth rings. I do not think I have many pieces with the heartwood-sapwood boundary because the sapwood was destroyed by wood borers and cracked, but I have enough heartwood to make some really interesting and pretty stuff. I do not know how apple responds to ammonia treatment yet. I suspect it would turn dark brown to nearly black.

That’s all for today, there will be several more posts.

Corona Crisis Crafting: This Time for Real

Well, sitting in a chair making tiny movements is something that still works, so I made jewelry, what else…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This set predates my Covid infection. It’s polymer clay with so called silkscreen stencils.

 

Who’s a good little fire demon? Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the sweetest half-villains ever conceived.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Come swimming in a sea of flowers. Yes, those roses are hand made. Yes, I know. My sister got a matching pair.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Come to the beach with me. This was a cane made after a Youtube tutorial and I really like the results.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And last but not least, some beadwork: The Sungoddess

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A Big Commission – Part 1 – Beginning

I got a new commission via the sign on my garden gate. Maybe if I did not live at the end of a road in the middle of nowhere I would have gotten more business that way, but a little is better than nothing.

The customer initially asked me if I could harden a kukri machete that he has bought and found of insufficient quality. My reply was that it might be possible, but only if the steel is good enough and only the quench is botched, not if the steel is craparooni as well. After a bit of back-and-forth, he brought me the bad kukri together with one that belongs to his friend and that he initially intended to buy.

Both machetes are from the same company. I won’t tell you their proper name, but it could be paraphrased as “Low-Temperature Carbon-Iron Alloy”.

The bad one was manufactured allegedly in Africa (the country was not specified) and it is really bad – it has no primary bevel, so it is essentially just a sharpened flat bar. The hardness is about 50-51 HRC, so it is hardened. But this is the lowest point where it might be useful as a cutting tool – with very frequent sharpening. Which would be difficult with steel this thick and this type of grind.

The good one was manufactured in the USA and it is in my opinion still bad, although not as bad as the first one. It does at least have primary and secondary bevels, so there is no need to remove excessive amounts of material when sharpening.

I took a picture of the good one, proposed a few design modifications, and made an outline and a price offer.

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Since this is supposed to be a working tool, we agreed that there is no need for high polish or any excessive fancifulness. On the other hand, there should be some fancifulness since a handmade product is going to be expensive regardless. So there will be a jatoba handle with hidden pins and a dyed leather sheath with a pocket and natural sharpening stone. The offered price is about ten times higher than what the manufacturer of the original has charged, but I do hope that I can deliver a product worthy of that expense.

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

I have already cut the outline from 4 mm spring steel and then I got distracted. I could grind the bevels freehand, I do have the skill to do so. But I thought to myself – I might need to make a second one if the first one cracks in quench, I might get more requests for big blades, so it probably is worth to spend some time making a jig. And today, I started to make that jig.

More about that when it is finished.

Crafting: polymer clay

I’m currently a bit confused, as I wanted to do this post as a follow up to the last one on polymer clay, but it turns out I didn’t write that one, despite me remembering the post. Well, just imagine that you read the first part of this post 4 weeks ago or so.

Having seen gorgeous shit on social media, I decided to do some polymer clay jewellery. I did a lot of it as a kid/ young teen, but the style back then was pretty different. I saw some tutorial on youtube and decided to go for a calaidoscope cane.

two pairs of earrings. Each earring consists of two square parts with the same pattern: colourful shapes wrapped in black, all symmetrical.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Now, while I liked the results, I didn’t like two things: One, it’s very material intensive. That was easily 10 bucks worth in polymer clay and if you fuck up that’s it.

Two: You end up with lots of the same. I can understand why there’s a lot of small businesses making polymer clay jewellery: You can actually create things within a reasonable time in a way you can’t do with beads. But I’m just making stuff for myself and friends and family,  so I don’t need 50 pieces with the same pattern.

So I thought: This was nice, but I’m not going to do much more of it. Well, I should have known I was wrong. Of course I did. I learned different techniques (I’m still learning, they aren’t coming out quite as planned yet) where you can use smaller amounts of clay and end up with a couple of pieces, not a whole drawer full.

A pair of earrings. on a brown marbled background are white cala lilies and green and gold leaves

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A pair of earrings. green and old leaves on a brown marbled background.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Oval earrings, blended yellow purple and blue, with abalone shells.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

U shaped earrings in blue, yellow and purple

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The last two pairs are a bit too bright for my taste, but the kid already stole some, so I guess they came out alright.

Small colourful studs

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The good thing about having may hobbies is that I have many tools, so I used my silicone moulds for the scraps. While I love my big earrings, my ears occasionally appreciate small studs.

Drop shaped earings. white pieces with blue lines

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is another technique where you cover the clay pieces in mica powder. Again, I’m happily stocked in that particular area and I really like the results. Now to my favourite pieces from that collection:

Round blue and white earrings with a dragonfly charm

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I’m just in love with them. The charms (again, yay for having tons of craft supplies) work just perfect.

The next pieces are from the same batch, only that I had to roll the clay more thinly and it turned into a whole different affair:

Moon shaped earrings, white and blue

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varios small studs in white and blue

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The effect became more like marble, with the colours blending more. Again, lots of nice, light studs. I think I could do with a second pair of ears.

Big Gay Sword

I have featured michaelcthulhu several times already, and he keeps proving that he is a wholesome and good person.

The summary quote from this video:
“I don’t pretend to understand God or being gay. But only one side is sending death threats to a 22-year old so I’m pretty sure how I feel in this situation.”

Mike is trying to mad science how to make various patina colors on his sword in this one. I feel like I could have saved him a lot of trouble with that.

Tram Depo Graffiti – Part 5

I still have some pretty pictures from that depo, this is not the last post with them. And I did not accidentally publish twice the same picture – two of the graffitis were very similar.

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

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

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

Why Relying on Algorithms is Bad

About two years ago, I got into playing chess online and I also watch chess videos since then, usually at dinner or lunch. One funny thing that happened last year in the online chess community was that a live stream interview between the (then) most popular chess YouTuber Agadmator and chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was banned for hate speech. Apparently, the algorithm has interpreted the phrases as “white is better here”, “black is defending”, “white attack” and similar as incitement to violence, and completely failed to recognize that the talk is about a board game.

At the same time, open racists and transphobes were spouting and often keep spouting their bile on YouTube completely unimpeded under the guise of “Humor” or “Just Asking Kwestchions”.

Today the algorithm struck marvelously again.

I do not remember precisely when I have seen so-called fractal burning of wood on YouTube, but I think it was some time last year. I thought that it looks cool so I researched how it is done. And I have immediately gone to the conclusion that cool looking it might be, but I certainly ain’t doing that, not even for a big clock. And YouTube channel “How To Cook That” has published an excellent video a few weeks ago explaining why fractal wood burning is not a good craft hack for woodworkers:

And of course, an excellent youtube video cannot go unpunished – the algorithm yanked it for allegedly promoting harmful and dangerous acts. And while it was banned, that same algorithm has actually recommended to me a video showing the hack in action. Marvelous work – a warning about dangerous practice gets banned as promotion of said practice and an actual promotion of it gets promoted. Logic straight as a corkscrew.

The video has been reinstated after YouTube got pushback, but I do wonder how many really good and possibly important videos get yanked and never get back because the channels that made them were small and did not have millions of subscribers to cry foul on their behalf. Because let’s be real – YouTube gets an actual human to do the review only when there is an outcry, otherwise, they do not bother.

I think that overreliance on algorithms has great potential for actual harm. Human social interactions are so complex that there are humans out there (like me) who are barely able to navigate them. I do not think that AI is there yet.

Grey Heron

Avalus has encountered this dapper beauty and managed to snap a few pictures for us. It is a long time since I have seen a live heron. Decades, in fact, since the nearest water reservoir where they at least occasionally occur is more than an hour’s worth of brisk walk from my home. It seemed closer when I was a kid.

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

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

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

Tram Depo Graffiti – Part 3

I am very busy and I do not feel like writing. Every day I am cutting wood, cook for two, then rest a bit, then cut wood, then pick strawberries, weigh them, and put them in the freezer. In the evening I make a fire, watch Jeeves and Wooster on my phone while a sausage is sizzling over the flame and then I cut some more wood, put away the tools, and go to sleep. Rinse and repeat.

I often write long SJW posts in my head, but mostly they stay there. I do not seem to be able to find the necessary time to put them on here. But I do have some more graffiti pictures. Lots more, in fact.