Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A year ago

Today, a year back, was the last time I talked with my mother. She said we should meet in Mexico because it was cheaper to go there than meet in Europe. She also said her mother said she was right, concerning an argument she had had with my brother while at the doctor.

The day after she could not talk anymore, and the following day, March 19th 2014, she passed away.

I was there till one week before, for a month. I spent my time in Chile making a workbench and handrails for her staircase. And having time with her, eating, talking, helping her to walk, making her dance.

Once I left, she would use the handrail and go down the stairs by herself to the kitchen, maybe start cleaning the dishes or something. She liked to have a clean home.

I should have made the handrail a few years ago, she had knee problems and going down in winter was always a pain in the ass. In the knees actually. But it was funny also, seeing her go downstairs, real slow, pretending her knees were still working. The dog, Chicho, used to go down before her and then wait on the ground floor for her.

My grandmother was a communist. The military came looking for her after the coup, but somehow they didn't take her, she was not home that day and may have known someone on the higher ranks. Her brother in law was not so lucky and spent a few years "desaparecido", he came back sick and mentally ill, and died a few years later in a wheel chair. I didn't meet him and we never talked too much about him. To be honest, we never talked so much about those years. I guess it was painful for them to remember. One of the few stories my mom used to tell was the one of compañero Allende asking for the telephone in our house.

My mom was a socialist in the neoliberal Chile of the 90s. Which didn't mean much, the market rules the economy, and the economy rules it all, but let's try to say we are still left wings. Anyway, my house was a house were we talked in the table. For lunch, dinner, onces or pizza night with vino, we sat in the kitchen and we talked. When I was in Enschede, a friend of mine recommended me a book from an Iranian psychoanalyst,  her last patient a woman who left his husband so she could dwell into philosophy. Chile and Iran are quite similar by the way, the latter has better food though. This woman tells her about the group A and the group B, and the difference was that one discussed things at the table and the other not. She was from A and her husband from B and there was no way things were going to work.  Anyway I digress. The thing is that life in my mom's house was an excuse to have time to sit in the kitchen and talk. And friends came by, and stayed for the evening or for some months, and we kept the conversation going.

So what was left from all that revolutionary energy, from all those people who lost their lives because they thought that justice was a good idea? A kitchen where to have fun.

Maybe what I'm trying to say is that you need to keep fighting against it, keep a small space of resistance somewhere in your heart, in your life, where things are done the right way. And you should expand from there, creating humanity.

Anyway, as Shakespeare would say, Good night sweet princess, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

The flowers in front of the kitchen

Monday, March 16, 2015

Le connard de ma mère m'a trompé son foutre

You never know when your French it's gonna be useful.

As you should know by know, we are moving soon and my tools are packed. Boring. Real boring.

I contemplated my options and it was either drugs in the park or some more learning. I still need to work for 3 weeks, and the spring doesn't want to come, so the park is cold. I took learning.

The french Art du Trait is beautiful. Seems to be useful too. And very very mysterious.

I found a french book and at the third plate I was done:

The 3D image I kinda see but when you project into a plane it's just too much. Far, far too much.

Let's look at something simpler. An acute miter of two angled boards.

(from here https://archive.org/details/carpentersbuilde00goulrich)

That's what they call compound angles. (Physicist rant: why do they call it compound? It's always the same geometry going on only that sometimes things lay in a plane and other not. Welcome to 3D worlds. It's like naming the elements when you only need the number of protons... but I digress.)

The previous drawing comes with the following explanation: "Let ABC be the plan of an acute angle, BD the line of intersection, and E the piece placed oblique to the base. To find the line for teh face of the piece, place one point of the compass at I, and describe the arc AC; draw the tangential line GH parallel to AB; join BD and HD, then in the angle GHD will be found the bevel or the face of the piece E. To find the line to cut the edge, place one point of the compass I, and describe the arc JK; draw the tangential line KL parallel to AB, join LD; then in the angle KLD will be found the bevel for the edge of the piece E. 

My personal task is to understand how to produce the previous drawing. I like the idea of doing your stuff with pen and compass and let the electrons at home. I have no problem with google maps but man I like the old engravings more. 

To see if it works, I took the bevels of the drawing and put them in my favourite line maker program, keynote. 

 I was feeling good so I went with the other side too:

 No idea whatsoever where my bevel gauge is, so print the pattern and transfer it to the wood.

First time was a bit on the edge, so had to draw the line again.

That's the meeting point of the marking, not so bad.

 Sawing was awkward. The grain runs really in diagonal so neither the rip side nor the cross cut are nice to use. I was missing the madonoko, and this saw has not been cutting the same since it went that night with a piece of wenge.

 Close up. Just follow the line.

 The last face I was cutting was slightly goofied, you can see it.

There, on the bottom left. If I were to do this more seriously I would leave the line and then pare to it, maybe with some kind of jig since holding the piece straight is far from easy.

 First try directly from the saw:

Now, as a good snob, I will excuse myself for the next picture since all my kanna are in the other house already.  I know it's impolite to put naked western tools on the pictures, but at least this is not, say, a blue disposable saw. No pun intended, Jason.

 Good thing is, japanese modus operandi applies so the plane was put in the drawer (yes, that's the plane I leave in the kitchen drawer) with a sharpened iron:

 A bit of touching here and there.

 And they look better already. Here the boards are laying flat because I cannot take them in the hand and take a good picture, this is easier.

 But they were not square to begin with.

When you bring those faces together you get your acute miter.

That was it boys. All my wood is going to the trash this week so in the following month most of the pictures will be of lines and perhaps a table for Julia's new house. (She stays here in Graz till september, while I freeze my ass in the chilean winter, so she got a smaller apartment.)  Perhaps I manage to arrange a visit to Venice and Bologna to see the woodworking and the porkworking over there. Then in may some german violins and a dutch surprise....

Tomorrow or so some comments on hip rafter lay out, this time from a japanese book.

Wait. there was something about Newton and Leibniz, and how calculus took over geometry at the same time that capitalism took over whatever it was before. Long time ago you used to "produce" mathematical proofs, whereas after Decartes you could map geometry into algebra and everything got slightly more boring, abstract and senseless. I guess Bruegel was more of a geometrician than a mathematician, say like the bored Durer in his transvesti self portrait in the Melancholia, the one with the tools in the ground and the matrix on the heavens (you didn't see that coming, did you?).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Japanese back bevels

Pretty self explanatory.

There are several examples in the wild of back bevel/ruler trick on japanese chisels and planes.

In general I go for an uber flat back, but in these cases that would mean a retarded amount of perfectly usable steel gone to hell for the sake of flatness.

First example is on the sides of this chisel, there seems to be a camber on the back so the sides are more ground than the middle of the chisel (which is flat).

The corners are coarser since the 5000 stone cannot touch them.

Another example, this is a paring chisel:

it has 2 micro bevels on the mirror side, one not so micro in fact, a few mm's.

This is another paring chisel from the same lot, this one looks more like a real micro bevel.

They all work. Personally, I like a flat back because I'm more used to the angle at which you need to use the chisel. This is most obvious when you need to pare end grain vertically, say on the sides of a mortise: a flat back let's you keep your chisel 90 degrees to the piece.  

I do need a larger sample size. Perfect excuse to indulge in more senseless consumption.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

End of odds

Cut my finger today. This time the left hand. The chisel was only sharpened to 400 grit, thanks god.

I wanted to buy set of chisels in buyee but for some mysterious reason I decided to unpack my chisels from the bag and take a look at them, to see how many I got:

A few didn't make it to the picture:

I decided I had enough and that I needed to sharpen them  and clean them before getting new ones. That was friday, saturday and sunday morning.

Since a friend of Julia was coming to play the game we are making, I used the excuse to clean a bit. This week my new diamond stone arrived so I felt I should re organise my sharpening. I even washed the rags, it's incredible how useful clean rags are.

The diamond stone is awesome. Straight edge flat and fast as crazy. It makes a really nice set up with my Naniwa stones, which I strongly recommend on the finer grit of the spectrum, the 400 is a bit too soft and it wears fast.

I'm going from the 5000 stone to a natural. Sometimes. Other I just stop there. Example of the finish:

And a bit of showing off

I call that the 34 mark, my mnemotechnics to remember the kanji. I'm looking for a kanna from that guy.

This is the game we are making with Julia.

The frame is wood, with some mitered half lap whatever joint:

And my sharpening friend came to play. It's a horse hair hand made lizard form Chile, an old woman makes them there, it's a typical craft of the centre zone of Chile.

The game is a "gardonopoly", a mix between monopoly, catan settlers and relational art. Needs some work but it was fun to play.  With the money of the game I bought this little plane.

Feels like blue steel and I love the texture.

And the lack of respect the last guy had with the dai. Full of saw marks, but the business end was really well taken care of, a joy to use.

So, back to sharpening... I was sanding the handle of one of the small mortice chisels when I learnt the hard way that I should put tape on the edge when I'm doing that. I morticed my finger slightly.

Then I spent most of the day reading. Japanese home and its surrounding: https://archive.org/details/japanesehomesthe00morsuoft

The guy is an american who goes to Japan in 1880 or so. His notes are not so technical, the guy was a zoologist, but the drawings are quite nice and the descriptions are very evocative.

This, of course, made me think of Tanisaki's "In Praise of Shadows". I read it long time ago, it appeared on a "El Caminante",  an argentinean or spanish magazine my father had laying around. Then I bought the book and must be somewhere in Chile, but today I just took a look at the pdf http://dcrit.sva.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/In-Praise-of-Shadows-Junichiro-Tanizaki.pdf

In the essay he's complaining about the westernisation of Japan, and all the troubles it takes to try to have the cake and eat it. The cake of modernity that is. There's a lot of toilet talk too: "modern sanitary facilities" as he calls it. Let's note that by modern he means flushing nutrients away into the sea.

I remember that when I read the essay long time ago I thought that western's enlightenment was the light of the atomic bomb falling over Japan. It kinda made sense since the bomb was a state secret and there was no way to describe it besides a bomb of light. Tasteless metaphor.

He finishes the essay asking for keeping a tad of darkness on the realm of art, in particular literature's mansion:
I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration. I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allows at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them.

See what's like without em. Sounds good.

Which brings me to the final point of this sunday night.

This was going to be called "the plot that changed my life":

Hope you can read the caption. It says electricity used per unit of material processed for various manufacturing processes. It relates the amount of energy you need to produce something with how fast (measured in kilos per hour) you to produce it.  Taken from here http://web.mit.edu/2.813/www/readings/Ch6GutowskiSekulic.pdf

Essentially, time (as in history of technology) goes from right to left, from the high-output low-energy processes (like machining or grinding) to low-output high-energy process as carbon nanotube production and the stuff you need to make RAM memories. 

Note that the scale is logarithmic, so there is a factor ten between each line of the plot. 

When people tells me that global warming will be solved by technology, I just point to that plot. The more you "develop" the more energy you consume, the more you heat the planet the faster you die. 

Ergo, there's no fucking way of keep business as usual and cool down the planet. 

But that's not the worse of it. The problem is the existential poorness. 

Which brings me finally to what I wanted to say. I don't really hate americans, there are a few I like. This is one of those: 

That's a summary of Norman O. Brown's book "Life against death", a sociological study of Freud's ideas. Totally worth reading. 

It's kind of obvious to me that we live in a sick society. Sickness have symptoms. Our social symptoms are becoming planetary, which should be at the very least make us change our ways. But we keep on going.

For money? For the next iPhone? To quote Redoles, los pobres vendieron sus conciencias por unos micro-ondas. 

We should listen to Sturt again, when he assures us that
... no higher wage, no income, will buy for men that satisfaction which of old – until machinery made drudges of them – streamed into their muscles all day long from close contact with iron, timber, clay, wind and wave, horse-strength. It tingled up in the niceties of touch, sight, scent.... But these intimacies are over. 

I read this quote and I need to think of van Eyck, who signed his works with a "Als ich kann", as I can, or the best I can...

And that self conscious ego, who knew that he could, created the divine. Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est, reads the Magnificat. Who has made me magnificent, he is mighty. I love the logic of it: because I am great, god must be even greater. 

I quote Jakob Böhme in a book from 1620:
The hands symbolize the omnipotence of God, because just a God can transform everything in nature and make whatever he wants out of it, so the human being, with his hands, can transform anything in nature that grows or becomes, and can make with his hands whatever he wants; he rules the whole work and being of nature with his hands, and they rightly symbolize the omnipotence of God. (Quoted on The body of the Artisan, Smith 2004, p161)
How to read this? The other way around of course. God simbolize the omnipotence of the hands, because just as the hands can transform nature, so we imagine god to be powerful. (A simple evolutive analysis is helpful here, we first got hands and tools, then the gods came.)

Catch my drift? That's the kind of world that a society that makes things by hands gets to live in. That's how I imagine things are when we turn off the electric lights.

Now, and just for the sake of putting Foie-gras on a rabbit hot-dog (thanks Chicago),  how do we read Nietzsche's comment that God is dead? Remember my dream of Marx coming to the table of Alice in Wonderland saying that "it's the mean of production, stupid!"? Well that's it, precisely. Nietzsche's assertion of God's death is the confrontation with the fact that, as society, we have been living like blind kitties. We live in the world but we are not able to engage materially with it, and thus we become blind to God's existence, understood here as the power that man has to shape his world with his own hands in a purposeful way.

What we have today is pure neurosis. We say we want A but we do everything in order to not obtaining A, up to the point of making the world unliveable,  to the point where we actually cannot obtain anything anymore, pure Todestried. We are shaping the world, in a scale never before imagined, but not in the way we want it, not in the way that anyone would want it.

And that's sick.  

We want to play, with our full bodies, and with the world. 

We better start soon doing it. 

Monday, March 2, 2015


It may be a generational issue or the lack of zazen but with Julia we are already thinking of where to spend the winter of 2016.

After some thought, I think we are going to Samaipata, a small town in Bolivia near Santa Cruz. Not that I have any hope you know where Santa Cruz is (and you are forgiven, it's a horrible city), but I need it for the sake of the argument.

Samaipatan street

From Santiago, the plane to Santa Cruz costs 250usd return for two months. Then you take a taxi to Samaipata por 5usd or so. You can easily live there for those two months with 250usd. I guess you spend 100usd in heating in Santiago's winter. Food is also dearer in Chile than in Bolivia.

Samaipata is on the east side of los Andes, at tropics latitude, so the weather is lovely the whole year. Our plan is go there and Julia makes bolsitas while I make cajitas, and we sell them on the streets to the gringos. (That's little bags and little boxes btw.) Samaipata is full of gringos, and gringos have cash. They even have turkish burgers and falafel.

Cajita example. Ecuadorian top, european sides and bottom. 

Which brings me to the subject of these ramblings.

To make cajitas in Samaipata you need:

planes (3x)
hammer (2x)
chisels (10x)
hatagane (4x)
sharpening stones (4x)
files (5x)
saws (6x)
knives (3x)
lay out tools (4x)

That's pretty much what I'm using right now on my workspace. I feel that is a really complete set up at the moment, except that I'm missing another small azebiki, for the sake of it...

You can also make a gate with those tools. Or stools. Or stands for the food on the market and you can barter with the cholitas and the guy who makes the zonzos (yuca with cheese cooked over fire).  (A culinary parenthesis: if it's flat and round, it tastes good. Eg. Pizza, zonzos, sopaipillas, crepes...)

Last time I was there I had a really crapy tool selection and I kind of made a gate:

Even managed to put a tad of fancy joinery there

There is already a shoemaker on the Samaipata market so a cajitamaker would not be out of place.

What I'm trying to say is: you don't need so many tools for a two months woodworking trip. A big part of the tools I have is to condition other tools. Once you have a conditioned set of tools your needs are reduced considerably.

So, this was like some prolegomena to the immigrant's tool chest. The full version is coming soon. We are moving this month and I'm not allowed to woodwork on the other flat, so everything must be packed.