Monday, June 28, 2010

An impressionist camera

As I reported about two posts ago, my camera went west. Or so I thought, since all I had on the monitor was snow and a few cubist designs, very faint at that. On the off-chance that the camera might be working, I pointed it at the window and snapped the shutter. I suppose electronic cameras have shutters -- I can't see how else they can cut off (or turn on) all those photons. I transferred the flash card to the new camera and, behold...
I actually think that is an impressionistic composition. I had no idea what mode I was in, what the autofocus latched on to, how the contrast would work; indeed I did not think the camera would work at all. But it did. So the camera still works, but you can't see what you're doing. Interesting, no? I suppose it comes under the heading of monkeys typing out Shakespeare.

Note the little pole lathe at the left on the windowsill. It was the first one I made, in Juneau; I keep it as decor.

A new poppet regime

Well, I have a new camera -- much like the old one, only more expensive -- so here are the new poppets for the lathe, made this weekend.
The poppets, which replace the old 2x4 items, were made from a section of birch log, split in half, and smoothed out on the good old shaving horse. Then they were sawed to shape, and I used the bandsaw for that purpose; finally shaved again to fit the bed. The headstock is so tight it requires no wedging; the tailstock is wedged in place. I now have a screw-in tightener on the tailstock (or tail puppet). It is a piece of threaded rod from the hardware store. Needs to be cut down, but it works as is. The poppets put the center height over 15cm. or 6" if you must.

All this required making a new tool rest. I am experimenting with the height of the rest. I have always found it works better a bit below center height. I am using a set of ordinary carpenter's gouges as turning tools. They work fine, but do need honing.

A pole lathe is a lot like a treadmill, only you have something to show for the effort at the end of the workout! So voila (or is that voici?) pole lathe 1.1.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oh no, camera problems!

I turn on my digital camera, and all I see on the screen is snow. Catastrophe. My previous camera went the same way. This is a Nikon, and I have used Nikons for decades without trouble. I suppose this is a cheapy Nikon, but still -- when a Nikon fails, Armageddon cannot be too far away. Brace yourself, for the end of the world is near.

Today I made new poppets for the lathe. I would have loved to document the process but for obvious reasons, I didn't. I will have to replace the camera, I suppose. Nobody fixes anything any more, just go out and buy a new one. :(

Brand New Turner

I had an invasion of village kids last Sunday. Among them, Adrian, who took on the pole (actually, bungee) lathe:
He is, as they say, a natural. He got the idea in one minute. He is making (of course) a potion bottle. (The witch consortium did not approve of my potion bottle, so he is redoing the project.) In the photo, he is turning some aspen into a cylinder, which is the first step in any turning. I am impressed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A ploe Lathe takes shape (and makes a shape)

The other day, Neoni came by. She wanted a "potion bottle." No doubt for some deeply secret witchery. At the time, I was getting very tired (gardens are very demanding), so I had to tell her to come back later. She hasn't, but that catalyzed the pole lathe project. A pole lathe is a lathe with a springpole return. The lathe cuts in one direction, propelled by a cord, In the other direction, rewinding, you don't cut. The Vikings used them and I doubt very much that they invented them. I have built a couple of small ones but it's time for the real thing. This winter I split a log in half and mortised it to accept some 2x8 I had salvaged.

It so happened that I tried to make a pole lathe out of a Work-Mate, the best British invention since the steam engine. It didn't work. A Workmate is too flimsy and has too many braces for the thing to work. But I had a lot of stuff left over from that idea. So I built the lathe to suit. We put in our 2x8, add some scrap 2x4 for rails, and voila, a proto-lathe:
As you see, the rails (or bed) are spanned by 2x4 pieces with pointed spikes sticking out of them. These are called poppets. For the moment, the poppets are simply clamped in place. Now we wind a piece of clothesline around a workpiece. We attach the cord at one end to a treadle and the other end to a springy pole. No, wait. Not enough room in the shop. So instead of a springpole, we use modern tech: a bungee cord.

The tool rest supports the lathe tool. Above, I have used a plain ordinary carpenter's gouge to rough out a cylinder. Below, the treadle can be seen . You push down with your foot; the cord rotates the lathe towards you. The bungee cord, which you cannot see, is above the picture. When the treadle has hit the floor, the bungee brings the treadle back up. You can see the treadle better here:
In practice, I put one foot one the cross-board at bottom and push down on the tradle with the other. The work rotates towards me. I apply the tool. Good grief, how primitive! It's fun. And pretty soon, you have something that might become a potion bottle:
Reading Mike Abbott's Living Wood book, I found that I have to do two wraps of the cord, not one; and also that my toolrest height probably should be higher. On the other hand, it works fine with the gouges shown on the bed at left. The potion bottle proceeds apace. There is a lot to be done with this critter yet. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, the potion notion, er, bottle is looking better every day, in spite of frequent halts to improve something or other on the lathe.

One very nice thing about the treadle lathe is that it can be used safely by children. If they mess up, the lathe just stops. On a motor lathe, you get the tool back in your face. Possible serious injury. Maybe I will train Neoni and we can go into the potion bottle business.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mary, Mary, quite contrary...

No, there are no silver bells nor cockle-shells, but at least the garden has progressed beyond the trauma ward state. This happens every year. I transplant. Plants keel over. They will die! No -- it looks bad, but they will make it. If they don't, well, eugenics may have some justification.
There are really two sections to the garden: new and old. When I got the tiller, I doubled the size of the garden (and also the amount of weeding). You can see the division where the plastic juice containers (now water containers) are, at left. Also left is potato row, which is cycled every year -- crop rotation -- and you can just see the spuds coming up. Next row over at the front, lettuces. They looked like goners; but they have recovered. They have been de-cloched. The third row (left to right) is brassica row; we have cabbages (but no kings), broccoli, cauliflower, and such. The last row is root crop row, containing beets, parsnips, carrots, "and etcetera," as the King of Siam says in the musical.

We had a hot May -- I could have planted a week sooner. A posteriori guesses are disallowed in agriculture. We now have a cool and cloudy June. Just like last year. We are, after all, dependent on nature. We go, as Gene Logsdon says, at Nature's pace.

Meanwhile, the Goat Farm in the village is doing well:
There are four new kids on the block, or in the garth to be more accurate. They come up to the fence and wag their tails. "Meh, meh," they say. I suspect this means "feed me, feed me," in Goat 101. But they are cute. Amazingly, Goat Farm goats stay put. They do not escape. I suspect black magic. Never saw a goat that couldn't leap over a tiddly fence like that in the picture. Not these guys (or gals). Black magic. Dark side of the force. Darth Spader would be proud.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

An artistic anvil

Last year I observed that the Alaska Railroad (an Alaska institution, you can Google it and I will post on it sometime) was tearing up and replacing trackage near my dwelling. After the crews had left I moseyed over. I was looking for a piece of rail that I could make into an anvil.

You have to realize that rail is very heavy. It is graded in RGU (Ridiculous Gringo Units) in pounds per yard. Thus, 85lb. rail (about as light as you can get) weighs 85 lb. per yard, about 40 Kg per meter. I finally found a piece that I could drag over to the car, barely. Maybe it was 100 lb. rail! Weyger's book has instructions on how to turn one of these things into an anvil.

While I was mulling over how to turn this thing into an anvil, friends took a hand. One day my rail went off to Eagle River, where Steve worked it over. What came back was a work of art.
As you can see, the anvil has a top, which is detachable. It fits down over the pritchel hole. The top holds hammers, formers, and accesories. There is a dragon attached to the top. The top comes off and there is the anvil (complete with its own dragon):
I still have to bolt it to its stump. The garden has been a priority, but it is starting to do its thing and I can get back to other projects. It is so nice to have friends. Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Leta. I have seen stuff labeled "sculpture" in art museums that is far, far, uglier. A work of art, and it will be used.