Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Convex saws

I was cutting a dovetail the other day. No pictures of that because I was in a hurry and the day was nice and I was outside in the street doing some street carpentry and busy answering the questions of sexy chicks. Well, just one stopped to ask but several peopled looked perplexed at my japanese tools and the fact that someone was actually “making” something there in the street. Not selling, not asking, just making.


My favourite saw — that is in due of a proper sharpening and some teeth setting after the last sanding — is slightly concave. Just to set the reference frame, when you put the edge on a flat surface, there is a gap in the middle of the saw where you can barely can put a piece of paper. This made a bit difficult cutting the female part of the dovetail without marking the edge of the piece. It was a cross cut dovetail, and the vertical piece is on top of that so you anyway don’t see it but it got me thinking.

Jason once commented that some japaguys un-set one side of the saw slightly so it undercuts the joint. I didn’t understand what he meant back then but now I think I’m starting to see it.

Let’s start with a straight saw, as they come from factory and let’s try to cut a dado in a piece. It should look something like this:

You try to reach the horizontal dashed line with your saw and not to pass your marked line on the side of the piece, so the saw is always at an angle. (In mathematical terms one would say that having the saw at the perfect horizontal position has measure nil, that is you never nail it: computational error will fuck up your cut.) In this way, the resulting cut instead of being horizontal is bowed and higher in the middle of the piece.

Now, if instead of a straight saw you would have a gentle curve on the edge, you would have the following situation (the curve is exaggerated for the sake of illustration, as Presidente Correa likes to say):

Note that I show just one position for the saw: horizontal, and not two angled ones as before. This is because you can check at the same time if you are not under your deep mark. The resulting cut will be hollow in the middle. This is perfect to have beautiful sides and be sure you are right on the money in the middle. Which in turn implies that you can chisel the waste away faster, ie, this is better. Furthermore, you have a finite interval of angles around the horizontal that will give you a good result, so it also easier to saw with a convex saw.

That’s it for today.

Soon in the store we will have Convex Chumaruri Saws. That is, chumasaru pattern saws made in Maruri, the street where I was born and where my mom’s house is.

One last thing:

I’m leaving Graz this friday. Besides some planes, chisels, a bike and 50kilos of books (that will go to a friend’s in Leipzig) waiting for me in Germany, those are all the material possessions that I have accumulated this 6 years in Europe. In chile I have another bike, a small japanese lathe, more books and perhaps some clothes. I usually go in summer so I’m most of the time wearing just a sari. Hopefully I will manage to inherit some of the furniture of my mother. It would be nice to have a couch again. Last time I had one was in 2012, I think.

The bags are mostly tools. The small one it’s only tools whereas the others have a few clothes, a comforter and shoes inside too. My diploma. A few cups and tea caddies (I like tea and tea caddies, metal ones).

All in all, I think I spent around 2 or 3k usd in tools during this last year. If somebody steals my bags and I had to start again collecting tools I think I would go to Japan and buy from fleamarkets and buyee auctions, these ones that sell a complete carpenter set for 20k yen, around 200usd. You can flight easily 50kilos of tools with you in the plane, that should be enough to get you started anywhere in the world. And I guess it would be slightly cheaper than buying the tools one by one. Plus the sushi and gardens.

If everything goes well tomorrow with the taxes and the bank, I will be finally done with all the paperwork, moving, packing, shipping, fixing, burning and arranging shit that has been these last two (or three? or ten?) weeks. We have a small todo list for the week in Germany (move bike, ship books, visit Julia’s father and use the lathe for making dolls for the game...) but I should be able to manage at least 3 or 4 full workshop days and nights. My new naniwa 12000 will be waiting there and a Tamahagane plane from Junji. Also the anvil, so I will definitely try to straighten some metal. Perhaps even a saw. I want to file into a more convex shape my favourite saw, select the mortice chisels I take to Chile, sleep... plenty of stuff to do.

When we left Europe 2 years ago we didn’t have any idea of what the future was going to look like. I didn’t have any idea of what I was going to do next. I still don’t have an “idea” of what to do. But I know I can make.

In spanish, there is only one verb for doing and making, “hacer”. So when you are bored you say you don’t have anything to do, nada que hacer. But also means that there is nothing you can make. I realised about this when living at my brother’s house in Chile a few years back when I was finishing my PhD thesis and needed a quiet place to write. There was nothing to do there, since there was nothing that needed to be made. Even the food was made by the “nana” and packed in plastic boxes. Dreadful.

Now I go, with no contract, no definitive plan, no idea of what will happen, but knowing that whatever it is, it will have solid wood, will be hand made, have nice joinery and will use tools made by other humans like me. And that’s perfect. I don’t need to know in advance what I will do if I know the way I want to make it.

The tools in those bags are not only sharp steel pieces with wooden handles, they are a metaphor for something deeper, for something very human, and it gives me the confidence that it lays in me the power to shape my world, the world, even if it’s in the small little scale of a few tables — but a few tables make a cafe, and cafes are good ground for breeding revolutions. And this confidence doesn’t come from my degree in physics, or my bank account or my time in Celle with Opa and his eleven generations of violin makers. It is born solely from the close contact with the material world and the opportunity to talk about it with other people who are also close to it. And like that, talking about a world that is the same here in Graz, in Japan or Hawaii, we can educate ourselves and each other. And that’s all there is to it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bed lessons

We have finally returned the crap flat to the landlord who kicked us out for an open window. I had to cut the bed into pieces so I could transport it to the community garden of a friend of us for firewood. I also had to unglue a mirror that Julia glued to the bathroom’s walls with shit lots of double sided tape. The flat was pretty much empty so I had a leatherman, a thickness gauge and my favorite Ryoba to try to unglue the mirror. The Ryoba of course was the only one able to finish the task. Sad thing was that the blade got full of rubber and glue. There was a bit of ethanol I took from the office last week and tried to clean the glue with it. It didn’t really work for the glue but man the teeth where clean after that, they got more “bite”.

First lesson: clean your saw with ethanol/acetone once in a while. Then oil it again with camellia oil.

I guess some organic compounds are stick to the teeth bevels as you cut and dissolving them with alcohol is a good idea. Somehow I have never heard of it, the doxa goes something like you oil and sharpen your saws, but there is not a word on cleaning them, less on cleaning them in a regular basis.

Go and try it and let me know what ya think, it takes 2 minutes. I have adopted it already as a workshop good practice. A clean saw is a happy saw.

Now for the pictures.

After moving the firewood by tram yesterday, I went today to take a look at it.

That was my bed.

Best thing to do with an old bed is pizza:

 There was no table in the garden so I went for several small pizzas that I could make in my hands

Just the usual: bacon, parmesan cheese, garlic, mushrooms and pepper burnt in the oven and pesto instead of tomato sauce, since Julia doesn’t like it.

And that’s the second lesson of the bed: clay ovens are good things.

We were there, in the sun between the green of the garden, woman reading and man making fire with a beer in his hand. And god saw it was good.

If you are wondering if I left my favorite saw full of glue the answer is no. When we were back home after our late lunch today, I followed Mark’s advice and used coarse sandpaper to give a general cleaning to my saw, so the glue is gone and also most of its rust. After that, more alcohol wiping and I called it a day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vakmanschap is Meesterschap

It's time to celebrate, so a few scans from a dutch book I have called Craftsmanship is Mastery for all of you. 

(Today is my last day at work, it's sunny outside, and we have moved to a new flat with Julia, a proper one with real wood for the floor and real stone for the columns and no retarded landlord complaining for an open window. Will try to take some pics of the stonework.)

The title of the book is very enigmatic, and makes me think of Hegel's master-slave dialectic. Who is the master in the pictures? At first sight one would say the guy handling the tools and creating with them something beautiful. But then you start looking at the background of the pictures and the hands are only a little part of the whole picture. The craftsman is a slave of the material and tradition. A workshop that looks the same for 400 years, with tools old as humanity itself. The shapes he carves are transmitted generation by generation, and the gothic tracery emanates from the oak planks like out of its own vegetal will. The turnings follow the tools the turner uses and the carver is just another tool that the gauges need in order to attack the wood with their own shapes and create the carving. 

The concentrated look, the humble body position, looking down in almost a prayer, has been learnt in a lifetime of close contact with their materials. They bend in front of a master infinitely greater than themselves: the world.

But that slavering gives you freedom. And a certain mastery of the world.  For you know its workings, you can act wilfully on it. The greatest freedom emanating from total submission, as one of Dostoievski's characters says in The Karamazov Brothers. 

I'm looking forward to grow old. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Apartment Permaculture, Grinling Gibbons, and changing the world

Ok, no pictures and no woodworking here.  I managed to write this down before we had to start to look for another flat and before my trip to italy last week, where I learnt the secrets of tortellini making.

Next wednesday is my last day of work in Austria. I'm quite happy about that. If everything goes well  we will be in Celle the 1st of May and then in Holland from the 10th. My ticket is for the 26th and there is already an empty house waiting for me in Chile. Some wood too and plenty of workshop making once arrived.  There will be one more re-packing of my stuff in celle, and the list of the immigrant's tool chest. With only two 23kg bags to take the selection is very very heartbreaking.

Anyway, I'm still alive and changing countries suck. I will not do it for the next 5 years.

Didn't have time to post it before but here it goes:

1. We finally moved from the old flat. No more nice entrance door, no hand made handrail, no oak parquet floor. No plenty of space for Sebastian’s tools. The kitchen is so small that cooking something slightly more complex than a cereal bowl is impossible.

We don’t even have internet here so I’m writing for the first time offline. [Note of the writer. I keep without internet in the flat but now we have been kicked out it, so Julia is looking for another one to stay 1 or 2 months more, then go to Chile.]

So, after having dinner from the kebab shop down the road and having a shower in the small toilet, I started to think about permaculture.

I’m just a theoretical “permaculturist”, ie I read a few books (perhaps only one fully) and watched some videos. In particular a really good one of one random guy that later I discovered was the author of Gaia’s garden, the one book I did read. By the end of the talk, he mentions that permaculture is not just about making gardens, but about designing patterns.

Example. When we were living in the old flat, Julia was in charge of cooking since she works fewer hours. Now we will both have some free time and more money, since we are living in a smaller place, so it makes sense to expand the circle where we get the food from and spend some of the money going for dinner instead of trying to cook in the small flat.

I cannot woodwork in the flat since is too small and the landlord doesn’t want noise for he works from home. But a friend of us has a communal garden that’s open everyday and has  plenty of space, some wood, and lots of things in need to be made. So again it makes sense to expand the circle of where I was making my woodworking and move a bit with my tools to an open workshop. Since soon I won’t be working everyday I can do that in daytime while Julia is at work and like that I get my dose of sunlight. Plus Julia likes gardens and won’t mind the shavings over there.

What I want to say is, there may be some more pictures of stuff being build before Chile.

2. I was last week in Macclesfield, in a project meeting at the Aztra Seneca site. Plenty of Ales, pies and stupid meetings. My postdoc is in simulation of “pharmaceutical powders” and I hoped it would be only technical but I was wrong and had to have a walk on the dark side.

Monday they took us to the Lyme house, an old english country house with lovely gardens and a pond. After walking through the garden for an hour or so I went inside the house. Nothing very special till in one room I ask about the carvings, if they were made of wood, and that they looked like Gibbons. A few months ago I read the lost carving, and learnt who that bloke was, so my surprise was immense when they told me that the carvings attributed to Gibbons where in the large room, 30 meters of so from where we were at that moment.

So I went there, fast as I could and 5 meters before entering the room I could see the leaves of a carving hanging from the wall, long and delicate leaves, like daffodil leaves, curving downwards in such a sad movement.

You could not take pictures in there, and words are useless to try to describe what happened in those 20 minutes I was there, speechless, trying to absorb the carvings, following the curves, looking behind the flowers, then the front, and laughing at the knowledge he had of our perception.

That night we had some good ales again, in a 400 years old house. Old timber, fast joinery, lots of carvings in the outside. Slate roof too. Drinking beer made there and that you only can get there, and god saw it was good.

And that was the corpse of England that Sturt wrote about and I have never seen. I was in London before, and tired of life one could say, but back then I was into books and philosophers and positing the questions rather than working on the answers.

3. A friend of mine sent me his “background thoughts” for an art festival this sumer in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The festival is called RE-CIVILIZATION and the rationale goes something like this: since civilization is the whole lot of crap that has the world going to hell, we need to civilize ourselves again, this time in a proper way.

There was a lot of de-growing on the text and some hints to permaculture but there was something missing. A lot of attention was given to “ethical” consuming and recycling but the word producer didn’t appear anywhere.

What got me thinking in Ghandi’s be the change you want to see in the world. Now let’s give it a producer twist, and rephrase it as “be the producer you want to see in the world”. Bring the old Marx from Alice in wonderland dream and let’s remember that the means of productions are the ones that create the world.

And then it struck me. In a previous post Francois quotes the infamous “el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido”, and for me, being born and raised with Pinochet and american TV, if there was something clear in my worldview was that the pueblo either never got together or the saying was just plain wrong. I was born in a defeated society, and there was no way out of it.

El pueblo was not going to get together anytime soon as long as they see themselves (ie we see ourselves) as consumers or individuals, for both are concepts that stem directly from the same mode of production that put us in the mess in the first place. What we need to do is to unite as producers. And unite in a very material way. I need a fellow to make my files so I can sharpen my saws and cut the wood that will be his door. I need another friend to bang hot metal into tools that later will make his table. And so weider.

The game is called why we should not kill you, and the permaculture guy from 1. mentions it in a video. You are with a group of people and everybody needs to convince the rest that he or she posses skills that are beneficial for the whole group. The first on dying are always the guys who work in a call centre, followed by the high score angry birds guys.

So, how do we get rid of the corporations that rule the world and the psychotic personalities inside and outside them? We start producing stuff ourselves. It’s not so difficult, humans are used to do it. The more you decouple from fossil fuels (own by corporations) and high tech-solutions (created, patented and maintained by gigantic corporations) the better your chances of a good life once the weather makes those corporations unviable (according to some models, we only got 15 years more until we lock in +2 degrees and the world goes to hell). But it’s not so easy either. On the one hand, doing this in the developed world may be pretty much illegal, due to safety concerns, insurances and weird laws. On the other, you just cannot go to amazon and order your association of producers. The most probable thing is that either you have to create it yourself from scratch (as will be my case in Chile), or you need to connect with other people who’s into the subject but working individually. And now we are in a full different level of crap talking.

First it was about the tools, what diamond stone to get. Now we are talking about establishing social relations, bonds, that will change in a small but very real way, our economy. And with that, they will allow us to live in different way, in a different world.

Another world is not only possible, but it's in the making.