Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shinglemaking at the world's end

I'm knackered.

After filing a 2m long saw and give it a test drive with some real hard oak, my body said we are closed for repairs till further notice. One smashed finger, blisters in my left hand, several straight cuts in my palm that I guess come from a very sharp plane but I really not remember when I made them.

I came to deliver a cross cut saw and "learn a bit of axe handling" but boy I didn't know what I was getting into. I felt home, for starters, and learnt a lot, but that was just the beginning. I will try to summarise these last 3 or 4 days, on the one hand to not forget and on the other because I think this was precisely the kind of coming together that el pueblo is missing and should start organising more often.

So, back in time to January. I had already bought my ticket from Amsterdam to SCL and was planning to spend some weeks in Holland as vacations, not for the food or the weather that much is clear. But the people. And since I was going to be around, why not drop by the shinglemaker's workshop so I offered a saw in return of some teaching and not long later we had organised a visit for april. Planes changed and I changed my plane ticket so I ended up coming one week before leaving to Chile. More time would have been awesome but in fact 4 days were pretty much all what my body could take; I seriously need to start training in Chile. Axe work training, that is.

 First day I cleaned a bit a saw that was laying around lonely and unused. One of these disposable blades sold as for hardwood

and modified a bit the raker teeth since I didn't like the factory back bevel. I also took a look at long 2men saw that hadn't seen a file in 25 years or so. And on top of that, last file it saw was more like raping than anything else, look at those gullets all flumfy womsy, that's no way to treat steel.

I tried one tooth and the steel looked nice, quite hard for a western saw and I kept it aside to give some attention to it one night when I would be free. In the nights I was either too tired to file or having a really good talk (and most probably both at the same time), so the saw had to wait till the last day for its resurrection.

Then we had two days of marking stems and squaring them with axes together with sharpening, trying tools, plenty of talking about building, materials, the world... plastering, cooking, coffee drinking, more sharpening, cutting, hewing, planing and what not. So much fun and everything flowing so well that there was no time to take pictures. Besides, having seen pictures of the workshop before and now being there showed me the poor representation that cameras can make of the phenomenon. I guess a haiku would be more telling, something along these lines:

Concerto for 4 hands 

It rains, 

blades sharpened while shavings fly

the sound of a world being made.

The third day I was getting real tired so I used photography and saw sharpening as a good excuse from real work.

I checked some of the japanese toys around the workshop, and there were nice surprises under the steel.

 Played with japan nats.

Really liked the hardness of this one but the finishing stone (in the right out of focus) was by far the sweetest candy of the store.

Checked "a pattern language" and really liked the section about the trimmings, of which there were abundant examples in the house.

 and had some fun with the two men saw.

Made proper gullets because a continuous surface has better harmonics according to my physicist instinct.

They also look kick ass, like if the guy filing knew what he was doing. (My personal theory is that if it looks nice, it feels nice.

The gullets are made wie so: First one side with a chain saw file

 and then the other side with the file in the opposite direction

you see, I can sharpen western saws too. I used a japanese tsuboman 175mm feather file to file the saw's bevels, I knew they would be useful one day. I chipped the file when doing one of the tooth of the edges but overall the file has maybe 2 more uses before being dull, and I only used half of it, so it should give you 4 sharpening per file.

A look to the full saw. I tried to have a nice pointy edge on the top.

We took it outside for a 40cm diameter oak piece. I think it took us 5 minutes, the saw was eating oak like I was eating chips at lunch.

and the surface left by the saw

Indeed it felt really nice, the saw just wanted to eat more and more of that oak. We did it in one go and after that I was done so started packing things back.

Here is a random japanese chisel treated to some japanese silica before going into the bag. I cannot get that finish with my stones.

and the pictures that Jason was asking for, plaster work. The back side, the plaster needs to flood the net

and the front side.  I just did a 1/4 of this wall, my finger was too swollen to push clay the second day so instead I made the handle of the last post.

What I loved of this weekend, besides the beautiful house, the good food and the great conversations, was the spirit of it. This was not a course in hewing or saw sharpening, it was more like two guys sharing with each other the way each one make things, and taking what you found worth taking, which in my case was a lot.

Now I'm back in the Rijks, eating fancy food and listening to artist talk all over. Amsterdam is sunny and cars just pass by, direction nowhere. Here, it's business as usual. But I know of a different place, not far from here, where things are done in the good way. I guess those places will end up saving us. 

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