Friday, September 11, 2015

Wilst du scharfen, digga?

Hallo mein Freunden aus Deutschland und Syria. Ich komme wieder nach DE und habe viel japanischer feilen zu benutzen. Care for a class on how to sharpen your japanese hand saws? Drop me a line and let's organise something. I will be mainly in Celle but touring by Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg and Essen. And maybe Bielefeld for an iranodeutsch wedding if the visa of my friend works out. October is the month. My german is not that great but I can for sure say "NEIN!" and "ja, das ist besser", which are kind of the only two words you need to correct somebody sharpening a saw. Cost, 50 euros for 4 hours, you bring the saws, I bring files and the vice, after we go for a beer or two.

Now, going back to your usual ramble about japanofilic tools, today we have 2 reviews.

First, cheap chinese sharpening stones (ccss, not to be confused with the brazilian band css)

It was not this one but a similar one, 1000/4000. They go for 20 something usd and free or cheap shipping. They cut. They need water, they are harder than a soft king and softer than my naniwa speciality.

The grain though is not so reliable. The 1000 was coarser than my 400 naniwa, or rather, it had some particles that were way out of the curve, and the scratch pattern was uneven. Nevertheless a fast stone, lots of slurry and don't hollow that fast. I mean, what you want for 20usd?

The side 4000 was more disappointing. You didn't get the almost mirror finish that I get with my suehiro 3000 but was a fast cutter. Slightly harder than the 1000 but not much. The size distribution of the grains seemed more homogeneous on this side.

As a note, companies should produce particle size distributions of their stones. These look like a broad distribution while the naniwas are dirac deltas. If you catch my drift that's it.

So, after lots of 4000 sharpening I touched it on my naniwa 5000 and the scratches were gone in 35 seconds or less. So the stone was actually just ugly but perfectly functional and quite fine. The back of the blade was flat, just a bit scratchy.

For a cheap stone is not bad, you just need another finishing stone and good to go.  Remember, we are thinking about affordable stuff for third world kids.

Ok, the second review is not gonna happen because it seems that Jose bought the last 2 saws that the guy in Yahoo auctions was selling. It was a very inexpensive saw, re-sharpenable with an aggresive geometry on the xcut and relaxed rip cut. Machine tensioned but real nice tone. Almost like hand made and it came sharp, real sharp. If I see it online again I link it, promise, it was a perfect starter ryoba. It had a measuring tape on the handle, in case you see them around.

Now, for the serious part. I'm going back to Europe next week to pick up Julia. Not looking forward to those 13 hours of that other kind of plane. I'm doing a balance of my 3 months here... what did I accomplish, what needs improvement and what I need to bring back in terms of ideas, tools and mindset for settling down here for at least a year (3 if I get the postdoc). One thing that has become clear is that there are no trees in santiago. Not in a way that I could use easily that is. Like, I thought about getting a big whale ripping saw but it doesn't make sense if we are living where I don't have access to fallen trees. I also need to go slower and drink more beer in the sun as Jason does. It was not funny to fuck my arm and spend 3 weeks with therapy to stop the pain in the nights. 7 years in front of a computer only prepare you for 7 more years of computer, stepping out of the screen needs to be a slow process to let my body get used to the work and not break. I lost some weight and gained some muscles nevertheless. Also, teaching people is really a beautiful process. I never thought I could enjoy it so much. It's almost you see the soul of the people as they learn, in the way they hold the kanna, weird thing. And nice to be there like a Socrates midwife to help bring to life the knowledge on them. Oh, and last but not least,  I dig handrails.

I'm at a really weird point of my life. I know I don't want to be part of a society that's walking directly into the abyss, an abyss that the ones in charge of the world today won't see, but that we in our 30s will live in our lifetime (carbon budget of the earth runs out in 17 years, then we are fucked). I could (maybe, if I'd apply) get a job in a shitty town somewhere in germany and continue the crap of stupid science and papers that nobody reads about shit nobody cares while sitting comfortably on my couch (finally, own a couch again, that'd be nice) drinking a beer and watching in tv how immigrants die somewhere else, far enough for not to worry. I could also get a job in Chile and try to "change things from inside" but that's simply stupid. You cannot reform the university, when the very idea of university is capitalist, colonialist, and fascist. We need to go back 500, 5000 years back and fix what we did wrong, what we still do wrong.  Cucumber in plastic so to say.

I was looking at a notebook I have from 2012, when I was in NY. In it, some notes about plots of GPD and energy consumption,  about the university and job (no idea what it means), about growth as blind faith and a reference to an article in Nature by Buchanan. Finally, this sentence:

Every global problem must be thought locally; and solved locally. 

Modernity is the antithesis of this. The colonial centre and its universities developing the science and technology that will be applied everywhere. Later america taking that role. One size fits all, but maybe one size fucks it all, would be a better expression.

I see my friends here, working too much, too many hours and not having enough cash. And I know I need them to build the hillside there in valparaiso, in a human scale and in a human way, but they are too busy trying to just get by to learn what needs to be learnt to make a new world. I see my aunt with cancer, 82, taking chemo, and wondering why she cannot let go and say that's enough, and just die as we all will one day.

The promise of development, that the modern world cannot fulfil. And not only it doesn't deliver, but it puts in danger the very biological bases for our existence while not delivering, contradicting its explicit aim. A neurotic bitch that is.

Let me just digress even more (from here):
When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.
We are used to think of ideas as some immaterial thing, that our brains grasp by means of kumba yambo. But ideas are embodied things, ways of doing thing, a certain manner in which people organise themselves. Modes of production I call them somewhere else and I mean this indeed.

For solving the problems we are facing we need new ideas. But those are not stupid formulas in a blackboard or the next app for fucking and buying pijamas at once. What we need are ways of organising and doing things. How to make dwellings that are human, as Jason so beautifully shows us in his own path. How to make a poem that sings itself in the tools we make, and in what we make with those tools, and in the lives we have thanks to them.  A haiku with no author and whose words we are when we shine.

Then we die, but that doesn't really matter then, for we had a good life and "every caress every trust survives".


  1. Beautiful and heavy Sebastian, I totally forgot about the sharpening stone by the end. I'll think on this as I saw today, sawing leaves lots of room for thought.

  2. Where you put your energy; your money; your time, circles around, varies, flows, rests, moves on. Leave something, plant (literally) something, take some seeds with you (if prudence allows), plant them there. This is my response.

    Started a new book - "Distant Neighbors" - The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder". One wrote from the traditions of agrarian Kentucky, the other from the traditions of Buddhist Asia. They did not allways agree, but both were working locally. I have read most of their books, and have heard both speak, since 1976; so wonderful to now read their correspondences.

    Snyder wrote in a poem the line - "Fifty years old, and I still spend my time

    Screwing Nuts down on Bolts"

    Today I was putting the towbar on the tractor and thought,

    "Sixty years old, and I still spend my time

    Screwing Nuts down on Bolts".

    Had a good laugh!

    Anyway, as far as I know, that's as good as it can get, working with your hands, working with your body, working with the local universe, and knowing distant friends are too. The rest of it is just static.

    Another distant friend, I've not met, one hand is thunder, one is wind:

  3. I need to go back and read my Gary Snyder, the only poet that ever spoke to what I know and feel. Wendell Berry is likewise a treasure. Thank you yet again for a very timely reminder Mark. Personally, I feel that all we can do is live our lives as an example, as the machine of human nature and modern culture is just too successful (if all you wish from life is a big car/truck/house.....). It's sad, but it's what the majority wants, and they won't thank you for your efforts to deny them that. To them, you will always be the fool.


    Those who are looking for something else out of life....they will see what you are doing, and just might want to share a bit of your journey. I value having true friends, though they might be half a world away. We can learn together, find different ways to work and live, and share our failures as well. But ultimately, we only have ourselves. Be your own example.

    Chop wood, carry water.

    But don't drink too much beer.....that crap goes right to the gut, haha!

  4. I'm feeling like posting more here, but want to say now before I forget, I'm considering roofing the forge with thatch of water reed (Phragmites Commonis).
    I'ts not that local, the chimney would need to be taller, and it would add to the time and cost; but would be a rare beauty I could see from the woodshop and be drawn to ...

    It would take three men working three days to harvest reed for this roof, or a machine from China could do it in about 4 hours. Or I could do a shrine or tea-house ...

  5. Thanks mates, it's really a blessing to be able to call you my friends.

  6. For me, it's nice to have some friends with youthful energy and optimism (the realistic flavor). Confession - I decided to build a forge 15 yrs ago, and have not forced it into being. Various obstacles, people not wanting a trip hammer/fire hazard/zoning whatever next door. Failed marriage. Most friends my age gave up on it some time ago. But October will see the completion of two jobs (which I have been loafing through it's true), and then it can happen without forcing.

    Would also like to add this to the Guardian article you linked to:

    which adds the history of the North American people, British East India Company and beyond. I got the book 10 yrs ago after hearing the author speak at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting at Peterbourough New Hampshire.

    I am glad to learn more details from the Indian perspective, so I vote for digressions!

  7. Thanks, looks like a good read, will try to print it to read in the flight.

    I'm at the moment watching this:

    seeing how the banks create money out of thin air and debt.

    But more than anything, I see people protesting and I do the math. 100000 people 4 hours of protesting in london. If they were a bit more useful they could each make 1 complex joint. A house has ca. 100 joints. Let's put 10% of the people to cook and make beer. 20% to plane wood square. 10% to cut the timber. 10% to make music. The rest marks and cut the joints. You could make 500 tiny houses in a day. For the cost of the material only, last time I saw protests were not payed for.

    What I want to say is, if you are going to meet with people to protest, you may pretty well get something useful out of it besides the adrenalin shot of escaping from the cops.