Friday, May 27, 2016

cutting edge snobbism

Nico came today and since I was planing some coigue panels we stuck to wood instead of brass as it was last time. We are trying to fix that coffee machine of mine but the sleeves in the group are a bit stuck and need some acid.

Anyway, so we went back to the mould and cut it closer to the lines plus made the cuts for the corner blocks.

Now comes the snobbery.

I don't like to use rasps or files for wood. They are slow and cannot be sharpened. I like them fast and sharpenable. And since Tanaka can, why shouldn't I try it at least.

The inner curves are a bit difficult, so you should cut the block holes first. Like that you can get quite close to the line with the chisel. For leveling use a spokeshave and finally a sharp low angle kiridashi

 The outer curves are easy, just keep the spokeshave level and spit often on the wood to keep it wet.

Or you can use camellia oil but last time I checked spit was for free. A free standing vise would be nice here, something like they use for leatherwork in japan where you can sit and hold the piece between your legs. The working asymmetrically makes for a not perfect position. If I had to make a few more I would totally build one, but since this just took 30min of work it's ok for a one timer.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

a post I don't know how to write — il faut faire avec

It started with a simple plot on the news:

Last 7 months or so have been the hottest month in the earth in the last few millennia. The nice thing of the plot is that shows how we are leaving the stability zone at an alarming rate. We have this thing in physics called phase diagrams where you can see movement of dynamical systems "from above" and stable systems orbit around a point. This points are stable if a small perturbation bring you back on track. That's the weather. The problem is that if the perturbation is too large things just stop working as we knew them and a new equilibrium is found or another trajectory is followed. Think of moving a book over a table, you can have part of it over the edge, but once the centre of mass is outside the edge, the book will invariably fall. And now think of a glass book that will explode in million pieces once it crashes. That's our earth.

What's the problem then?

Our world, from the matches to the roads to the universities and governments are built assuming that the stable point of the weather will continue for ever. And it's a system that kinda works and we discover things and people get rich and others die poor and things more or less get better. Or worse, I don't know. But we solved some problems, malaria for example.

Or maybe we "think" we solved problems when in truth we just used an incredible amount of energy in a short period of time and that what happens when you do that. We didn't get particularly smarter or nicer, we just found some black gold under and sold the future for a present full of cars.

But that's not the point. The point is that trying to foretell the future is a waste of time. It doesn't really matter when we cross the 1.5 degrees, or the two. It will be sooner than most people think. The question is what are we going to do when NASA publish its monthly report about the weather and it will be confirmed that we are falling from the table. We will say, oh shit, what the fuck do we do now? But our institutions, as our cars and our notions of family, friendship, property and life will be outdated. They will simply not work anymore. They were built for literally another world.

Which reminds me of the other day I was in Julio's cafe in Santiago and a professor whose daughter I used to date was there. It was maybe 7 years or so since last time we talked and I did a short summary of my life during that time... some failed coffee making business, critical philosophy with Zizek in london, marrying a violin-maker's granddaughter and starting to learn the craft to end up sharpening japanese saws and using the nice wooden spokeshaves to carve handrails and start giving classes of woodworking here and there. He says "I see you a bit disperse".

I should have answered "well, your fucking retarded world of specialization, isolation and progress has the world at the edge of collapse. Maybe it's time to try something else?"

Sometimes I feel like living in 1800. The smell of pee on the streets and the drunkards screaming about something nobody knows well on the stairs. The fact that you cannot buy any decent machine in the country so you either make it or do without (or import it, of course). Essentially, that amazon doesn't reach here. But more than a drawback it looks like an opportunity.

What's happening today in the world is consequence of centuries of technological, political and social "development", understood development as the direction people with power wanted for the world. What those idiots were creating in manchester were not only steam machines, but a whole new way of relating to themselves and to each other. A way of maintaining exploitation and expand it around the globe.

Which reminds me of Miyazaki's last movie. I read it as the failure of a human to come to terms with a technology that has the possibilities of good but engenders death.  You remember that dream scene where the whole town (with characters of several of Miyazaki's movies) going in a plane with the guy and having fun? That's what he wanted airplanes for, to make more human the human. The movie doesn't resolve anything, and this post neither will do, for this is a game that's played on the real world and that we will have to play. We as in people in their 30s, the new adults who are going to inherit an endless warmed up dump.

So here I am, in the past (there is a reason they call it underdeveloped world) wanting to take the technological path again but do it correctly this time. What do I mean by that? For starters without the protestant fascism of anglo-saxon culture. (Another parentheses. The guys who made those machines were friends and classmates with those other guys who moved through africa raping and killing whatever crossed their roads, so I don't think they were very happy lot in fact, those colonialists.)

We need hand cranked grinders, and smithies and plane makers, and make that in a way that still works the day that we reach the 2degrees mark. Make things in a way that is inviting, communal, inclusive. And we need to teach that to ourselves, and to each other, and device those ways of teaching because what you tried didn't really work.

You see, I told you I didn't know how to write this post. This will have to do. Il faut faire avec.

Monday, May 16, 2016

a tad too posh?

Well, I've been busy making small repairs for the house and fixing the closet we bought together with the mahogany desk last week. It's a 3 drawers closet with a shoe compartment that broke and somebody replaced with particle board that exploded inside the closet and served the two spiders who lived in there to decorate their houses.

So I had to change it, and since it's not an exposed surface, I could use the chance to practice more french polish, a la chilensis of course.

 I used cedar since had a wild grain part laying around that I could happily resaw for a bookmatched piece.

As you see in the background, the splayed legs bench is still not finished, nor have I finished planing it either. I brought the piece so julia could check the finish and see if she likes it for the bench. She does.

So it seems I'm getting a helper, I reckon that you need ca. 10hours per m^2 of french polish.

Oh, why chilean way? No sandpaper, no pumice no nada. I'm filling the grain with the same shellac and it's taking long. I should have watered the surface before the last planing since the grain raised a tad with the alcohol. I first gave it a few coats of pure shellac with the brush. Spiriting off every 2 coats or so to keep things uniform. Then switched to shellac with sandarac and benzoe and a cotton pad. The same, apply two coats then spirit off.

This is the closet btw.

That panel was in the trash and a neighbour called me to pick it up. Maybe a guitar top? The panels are pretty much perfectly quartersawn.

This is the hole my shellac-ed board will cover.

Some marks, I like to leave marks too

and a broken door being repaired.

 more cedar

 and the bookmatched pattern.

Need to glue some drawers, clean more, and nail everything back together. Then julia can paint it and we move it downstairs for our bedroom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


So I went to pick up this rauli chilean made small closet because we need something to leave our shoes and umbrellas and whatever not since at the moment we are bit short on drawers in the house. Anyway, I'm loading the thing into the guy's truck when I see something that looks like a mahogany desk. With brass ends on the legs and dovetailed drawers. I look closely to the drawers waiting for pine or another cheap secondary wood, but what I find? more mahogany. The full thing is made from wide and beautiful wood. How much I ask, cheaper than the rauli thing. I take both, I said, 300usd or so. At chilean prices that pretty much the price you pay for wood only on the cover 90x145x2.7cm of clean mahogany.

The best thing is this small notch all the drawers have at one side. I thought it was a cut somebody made by mistake when I saw the first, but after further inspection it's a closing mechanism. Inside the desk there is a spring mechanism that closes the drawers if the front drawer is closed. Beautiful.

It seems, sadly, that julia is keeping it.


After around 3 hours of work with alcohol, oil and a pad, the top is starting to look nice:

Compare with the fist picture:

I estimated that 10 hours will suffice for the top.

Most of the lines are gone and I have some shellac with benzoe diluting there to fill some annoying gaps on the surface. That will be a thick drop of shellac directly onto the holes, maybe applied with syringe. Then more spiriting (I think that's the name anyways, saw a guitar maker doing that).

Julia decided that it was to nice wood for her and I can keep it. I will plane all the no-show surfaces that the maker left rough just for the sake of planing this beautiful wood. The other show surfaces will be only cleaned and patched where needed, I don't want to make it look any newer than what it is.

Now it's at 5 hours: