Friday, July 30, 2010

Stick Chair , more alder fantasies

Having done two stools, I thought I was ready for a chair. So, here beginneth the episode of the alder chair. I selected some alder. Now alder, I have remarked, is remarkably strong. But is is never, never, straight. Well, I thought, there is worse than that masquerading as "sculpture" in the MOMA.
Here the back legs are held in an invaluable "Alexander jig," a birdsmouth thing tensioned by rope and toggle. It allows you to rotate the legs till you get the desired effet. I am getting ready to drill the holes to connect to the front ones. Doing that gives us...
The next step is to connect front and back legs with rungs. I had just pruned my lilac tree (too big to call a "bush") so why not use it for rungs? Above you see Mr Chair still in his jig, with lilac rungs, ready for the next step. To wit, now mark out and drill the holes for the cross-rungs, joining across the two sides. Then we tap (actually, pound) the whole thing together with a mallet. Now, if I've done my job right, I've shaved the rungs to a "white knuckle" fit in the hole. So they won't go in very far. Just as with the stool, we subject Chair to torture. We have ways...
After sufficient moral persuasion is applied (the turn of the screw, as it were) Chair allows as how he will fit. Love the scritch sound of mortise going into tenon. Hate the cracking sound that means it split. I had to remake one front leg, split at the top. You can see I have started to put in the back supports, also lilac. I took pictures as I remembered, not as I should for a real tutorial. (I have yet to figure out all the modes on my new camera. Nikon supplies the user's guide on CD. This may save Nikon money, but it means I have to go through a rigamarole to read the user's guide. )

And finally...
In retrospect, I should have looked at it more closely when it was in its jig. The back is crooked. Well, it's all crooked! Meant to be. Art is neither straight nor square. I'll let it dry out a while, then rack it some more. Torture solves some problems, all right. But it is the first stick chair I ever made; indeed the first chair period. So cut me some slack; remember the Guggenheim has some strange things indeed in it. And we learn more from mistakes than we do from successes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New blog I follow -- a musical interlude

I've added a new blog to my "follow" list. This is the Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop blog; the author repairs and makes (and also plays) violins. I find musical instrument making a fascinating craft. Hard to get maple in Alaska; all we have is "Japanese maple," in fact I just pruned one of my Japanese maples. Hmm. Could I make a fiddle? Fascinating thought. It would be mostly birch; I suspect that alder and aspen are not violin woods. However...

I used to work with someone who made harpsichords as a hobby. When he started he went up to the Yale museum and measured, photographed, noted and recorded all that he could. He went to Italy to get the wood -- and discovered that nowadays the Italians use it for cargo pallets! (Don't remember the name of the wood.) So he bought essentially a lifetime supply of the stuff and had it shipped to the US. I am delighted to report that at last report, Rob was building harpsichords for a living, with more orders than he could fill. Bravo. A harpsichord is a great big guitar; instead of plucking it with your fingers, you press a key which operates a jack which plucks the string with a plectrum. Plectra (or is that plectri?) used to be made out of feathers; nowadays (high tech) Lexan is the choice. Otherwise it's mostly cargo pallets.

Anyway, the moral is that you make do with what you have. One person's pallet is another's harpsichord. Or violin.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wees, weeds, but also turnips

We have had rain on top of rain. It is hard to do any gardening in the rain. But the other day there was a brief break and I rushed out to pull weeds. I got an enormous amount out. Rain, they say, is good for the garden. It is also good for the weeds. However, in the process of weeding, I noted that some turnips were ready to pull, and I did.
It makes a nice tableau. The Darthcartt, of course; many gallons of weeds, and the turnips. The payoff for all that weeding. The turnips are huge, perhaps I should have pulled them earlier. But then, it was raining. We also have radishes and some of the chard is ready. The cabbage has started to form heads. The broccoli and the cauliflower seem overwhelmed by rain; no sign of heads although they are very leafy. Well, gardening is a gamble. Win a few...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stick Furniture, part I

OK, Blogger, I am seriously annoyed with you. Your unspeakable user interface deleted my entire last post. So I have to put it in all again from scratch. Your wonderful autosave feature autosaved the last word I typed in. And only the last word. Maybe you can split the blame with Firefox, but I wish you would stop fiddling with designer templates and get what you have working properly. I would trade every "improvement" you have made for the ability to insert an image where the cursor is! And don't tell me it's JavaScript's fault.

End of rant. Grrr. Anyway, stick furniture is furniture made out of branchwood, as opposed to stuff riven or sawed out of trees. I have loads and loads of alder that I accumulated when I cleared out the pasture. So, I thought, why not make a stick stool? Start simple, I thought. A stool. Four legs, eight rungs. How simple can you get? Now, you can find alder in any shape you can imagine, except straight. No such thing as straight alder. But that's OK, I thought. It will be artistic. Furniture as nature designed it. Guggenheim, here I come. Alder Fantasies. The next Alaskan dream!

So I hauled some alder from my brushpiles, cut four legs and eight rungs, onto the shaving horse, peel, and shave the ends of the rungs to a very tight fit on a hole drilled with a 15 bit. I think that's 15/16 inch in RGU, about 24mm. So assemble two legs and two rungs. Tap them in with a homemade mallet. You will find they only go in so far. So, as Darth Spader might say, "we have ways of making rebel rungs fit."
This is the torture rack. The Geneva convention says nothing about alder, so tough luck, Alder. Clamped to the trusty Workmate is a pipe clamp, acquired for a couple bucks at a yard sale (the pipe was a found item). I should make a fixture to hold the pipe in the workmate. Mañana perhaps. Anyway, you put the stool in the pipe clamp and turn the screw firmly. There is a wonderful scritch sound, and the rung slides about 5mm into the hole. Repeat with the other rung. Try to keep things square. I didn't. Bad on me. We learn, though.

To the right of the torture rack, we have the orange-topped story stick. This is a stick which records leg lengths, rung lengths, hole heights and diameters. Once you have built a stick, you need no other measuring instument. Big time-saver. Also to the right, two more legs awaiting torture.

Next episode in the tale is related in part in the post entitled "Invasion!" The kids wanted to help. So I had them peel and shave the remaining rungs. They were too loose a fit. I know, I should have checked. But with eight kids loose, just you try supervising anything! Anyway, the next step is to assemble (mallet) and rack the whole stool:You rack the thing until it is square. In stick furniture, there are no right angles and no straight lines, so it's all eyeball. The picture is of the second stool I made using the lessons learned from the first (and without kids to distract me).

Credit time. The racking procedure is covered in Mike Abbot's Living Wood book and Jennie Alexander's How to Make a Chair from a Tree DVD. Google them. Mr Alexander recently changed his name; formerly John Alexander; Google may not find anything under Jennie.

So what became of the first stool? Well, we put a top on it, and two little girls carried it off to their clubhouse!
It did not occur to me at the time, but an adult stool is perfectly adequate as a little girl's clubhouse table.

Lysander Rides Again

Lysander, my 1947 International Farmall H, had not started since about this time last year. Part of the problem is that he is a 6V tractor, and you can't buy his batteries at NAPA auto parts, at least not in Big Lake or Wasilla. On my last trip into Anchorage, I visited Alaska Battery and they found me one. So I charged it, and we had a couple of days where the sun was shining. Time to give the old hero a go.

Let's see -- install the battery, remembering that he is positive ground. Clean out the sediment bowl on the fuel line. Put in fuel, and turn it on. Observe, the bowl fills up. Check the oil. Swing up into the seat. Check neutral. Push in clutch. Switch on. Pull out choke. Pray. Hit the starter button. Lysander coughed. Push in choke halfway. Another hit on the starter button, and off he went! Wonderful rumbly sound. Not only that, but the ammeter registered a charge! I had spent some time last fall tracing out all the wiring, tightening connections, cleaning the commutator on the generator, and tightening the generator belt. It paid off. I still think there is a loose wire or fifteen in there, or possibly a partially broken one. But right now it's time for a workout. Drive up to the power line right-of-way, hitch a rope to one of the logs lying there.
There is Lysander pulling a log, off to the right (long rope, easier than driving Lysander down the right-of way). Notice the elegant paint job, mostly finished. I will order a decal kit and a new muffler any day now. Lysander was ready for more, but I was absolutely exhausted. Pulling logs is hard on the operator -- you have to lift the log so's you can get a rope or chain on it. So we drove Lysander to his summer dacha, and tucked him in.
I can't believe how reliable that tractor is. Modern cars work OK when brand new. When they get old, their computerized circuits fail, the safety features hamper starting, and a thousand ills beset them. Lysander is over 60 years old. Look at him go!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick maker

I don't do any butchering (except in wood), but I do bake. What about candlesticks?

I cannot resist the pole lathe. I suppose it should be called the bungee cord lathe, because the restoring mechanism is a bungee cord. So what should I turn next? Why, that old lathe standard, a candlestick. Should the recipient need to light a candle to St Jude (the Patron Saint of desperate causes) then she shall have the proper fixture for the purpose.
Blurry photo. Drat. I am in "scenic mode" and I need to wait for autofocus to work. Haste makes waste, in photography as elsewhere. Anyway, this is J. Random Birch. It turned out (no pun intended) to be spalted, or tiger-striped, a valued quality. The picture shows a very rough stage in candlestick; it will undergo major slimming as we go. Aided by my trusty diamond hones, I sharpened up all my gouges. Unbelievable difference. On a powered lathe, the motor overcomes dull tools. Not so an a foot-powered lathe. I have a spindle gouge designed for turning, but until I put the diamond hone on it, it wouldn't cut, it would just scrape.

And, I see, I am in major rant mode. Bear with me, or just stop reading here if sharpening tools is not your thing.

I have said it many times, and I will say it again: modern tools are just too **** hard. The manufacturers know all about hardening, but they assume (correctly) that the average user is a lazy ignorant snerd, who won't learn to sharpen his or her tools. So they harden their tools way beyond the reasonable point, in hope that Jim (or Jane) Snerd gets some use out of the tool before it has to be (uck) replaced. The manufacturer is well aware that he will make some Geld out of the replacement. Further incentive to harden 'er way up! Rc 80, here we come!

My favorite sharpening medium is the Japanese water-stone. But if you try to do, for example, a kitchen knife, a good quality one, say a Sabatier, on a Japanese stone, you will be wasting your time. On these stainless, chrome-vanadium, ultrahard tools it is either a belt sander or a diamond. The instructions with the knife say something like "once a year, have it professionaly sharpened. "

Bah, humbug! Your professional sharpener will put it on a belt sander, touch it up with a diamond, and voila! That will be $20.00, please. I can do much better with periodic touchups with a diamond. I am really glad I bought that $7.60 diamond hone at Lowe's (or maybe it was Home Depot),

Well, rant over. But what's the use of having a blog if you can't put in a good rant once in a while, I ask you?

Midsummer Garden's dream

It has been raining, and then it has rained some more. This morning, the rain gauge registered 51 mm total. May not be much for the tropics, but is is quagmire for Alaska. This is supposed to be very good for the garden (it is also very good for the weeds, alas) but the garden is indeed prospering.
I put down some lovely weed-control stuff between rows. Potato row left, then letttuce, onions and such, then brassica row, and root crop far right. I cloched a bunch of stuff with my nonpatent fruit juice container cloches, Made a huge difference. A tailored greenhouse, in fact. Off picture, the strawberries are producing. Here's dinner ingredients a few days back:
Lettuce and strawberries, yum. Beautiful strawberries, sweet. Berries of all sorts seem to do well in Alaska.

We are in the "cold and wet" cycle of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Since the period seems to be 30-odd years, perhaps it should be "Pacific Tridecadal Oscillation," or PTO. But that is also the acronym for "Power Take-Off" one one's tractor. How confusing! Acronyms are the curse of modern languages, but even I have to admit they are sometimes useful. By the way, the sun was shining when I took the garden picture. Do not be misled by taking it for the norm in these PDO, or is that PTO-challenged times.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Alaska Transportation II

In my visit to Talkeetna I posted about trains and planes. This is a follow-up. I drove into Anchorage the other day -- a 130+ Km drive that I don't like to do at all; on my way back bingo! I saw a train stopped in Wasilla. Instant pull off and unlimber the camera. Push to extreme tele:
And there she is, 4325. Double headed, in fact, pulling a longish train up to Denali Park, Talkeetna, and maybe even Fairbanks (although I doubt it). The consist, as we rail freaks (actually, the railroads themselves call) the list of cars being pulled, was all passenger stuff.
No doubt full of tourists. "Tourist" may be a bad word; but it is extremely important to summer survival in Alaska. Everyone depends on it. I'm glad the consist is so long; means lots of people are headed to lodges, campsites, "and etc." up near Denali.

So now, you are thinking, he's going to put some airplanes into the post! You know me quite well, I see. Of course. I happened to walk by the Willow floatplane dock, and stopped to take some pictures. The occupants of the dock were these guys:
In the center is the iconic De Havilland Beaver, built in Canada in the 1950s by De Havilland (Canada). A magnificent airplane, with a huge payload capacity and a big radial engine with a mellow, basso sound. I can tell it's a Beaver (or maybe an Otter, slightly larger) from the sound of the engine alone. To its right, a smaller floatplane I can't identify offhand -- maybe a Cessna; and a Strange Plane to the Beaver's left. More on that. As I stood and wondered, as if by magic a party of fishermen appeared and loaded their paraphernalia onto Strange Plane.
When they were all buttoned up and ready to go, they got a push away from the dock...
Engine started, we taxied out towards the "runway" -- don't think this is correct on a lake, but anyway...
And off we go!
Destination: unknown. Some Remote Lake, AK.

Some work with binoculars and Google reveals the identity of Strange Plane. It is a Found Aircraft Ltd (Canada) Bush Hawk. If you Google these terms, you, too, can find out all about the Bush Hawk. Glad to see the Canadians are still making bush planes. De Havilland, of course; but also the Noordyun Bushmaster (a classic) and now the Found Bush Hawk. Bravo Canada!

The coming of Chard

A momentous occasion today. It was raining in the morning, as usual these days, but it started to clear in the afternoon so out I went to the garden to pull weeds. I noticed that one of my seed-started radishes was pullable, and so was one of (in fact two of) the chards. So I duly pulled them:
The larger image will be off-focus. The new camera behaves differently from the old one -- you have to wait till it beeps before you depress the shutter fully, to allow autofocus to do its thing. Oh well. I had some of the radish and all of the chard with dinner. You treat it as spinach; I think it tastes better than spinach. One wonders at the audacity of supermarkets; they sell you blotter paper labeled "chard." Perhaps blotter paper is too tame a word for what they sell you.

My tomatos are not doing well. I am applying compost tea and hoping for a revival. It is difficult to grow tomatos in Alaska during cold phase of the NPO (North Pacific Oscillation, a 30-year or so cycle in temperature. What causes the NPO is a matter of speculation at this point.) It is hard enough in the warm cycles. On the other hand, I put cloches around the carrots and several have expressed a desire to be carrots a while longer. Win a few...

Cloches (from the French for "bell") are simply vaguely-cylindrical extra covers you put around plants. Sort of a personalized greenhouse. I make mine out of plastic fruit juice containers, thus getting recycle points. Cut the tops and bottoms off on the bandsaw, instant cloche. I have the jalapeños in the greenhouse cloched and some of the garlic cloched. It seems to help. Double cover, according to my bible (Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Gardener) works wonders.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making hay, er, compost

Once one has scythed down the bizarre mixture of grass, weeds, clover, and aspirant alder trees that live on my property, there remains the question of what to do with it. This is really simple: we feed the compost heap with the "hay" we have just made. Much easier than real haymaking. Why, as Eliot Coleman points out in his book The New Organic Gardner, bother with manure? Cut the hay, bypass the cow, dump it on the compost heap. The heap acts like a cow and digests it. No mess, no smell. And if you're like me and don't want a cow in the first place, it's a winner. Spoiled hay? So much the better! Speeds up digestion.

So we take the bull rake and march down the windrow:
For some reason (probably so much fireweed in the mix) I get cigar-shaped results. No matter, works fine. Pick up the cigars and dump them in the Darthcartt:
And off to the compost pile we go. On a nice day, it's fun. If it's raining, not so much, but we must take the weather as we find it. The payoff is here:
Radishes and turnips! All is well on the farm. Radishes will grow where other vegs fear to tread. Love them!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


It started Sunday a week or so ago. There I was, making a stick stool, when who should appear but Neoni and some friends.
The three girls in blue are not village kids; they are visiting from any of a (large number) of Russian communities in the Mat-Su valley and elsewhere. A parenthetical comment: most hospitals these days have emergency room signs -- you know, the ones that say what your "rights" are -- in English and Spanish. But not Mat-Su Regional. English and Russian is what we have. Says something about Mat-Su, I think.

What would you like to do, girls? We want to make something. Anything. Would a stool do the job? Sure. So off we went. So let's shave out the rungs. Neoni, as you can see, is an expert shaver. She needs a longer treadle, but her younger cousins need it the way it is. Compromises, compromises.

So we shaved a bunch of rungs, and got the sides of the stool assembled. Neoni's frends learned the golden shop rule the hard way: do not touch anything in my shop without my express permission. Everything here bites, scratches, or claws. One stumble across the dragon anvil got that lesson across very quickly.

A few days later, we had the original crew plus a bunch of boys. The boys wanted wooden knives. I try to keep a bunch of splits for just such an occasion; swords, axes, and knives are much in demand. The Chalupy Armament Subdivision swung into action:
As time went on, we had a larger crowd. Some were interested in the stool:
Others were knifesmiths:
That is my shaving horse, obviously adult-sized, so the kids are double-teamed on it. Note the mini drawknife. I bought it partly for me, but mostly for the kids; it is very useful. However, the experts use the adult tools:
Good grief! Neoni in a short skirt? O tempora, o mores! What is the village coming to? But also note the double teamed hold-down.

After a few hours, something like a dozen kids will wear me down. But only one band-aid was required. Neoni disregarded my instructions and grabbed the drawknife by the edge. I think it was a cheap lesson in safety, and a good time was had by all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Talkeetna and Transportation

I am running behind on posts, because the 'net was intermittent last Wednesday and out on Thursday. So bear with me. Which reminds me that I have only seen one bear this season (next to my bedroom window. I spoke to him severely on the subject of trespassing, and he departed at high speed. Perhaps I did threaten to turn him (or her) into a rug, but that's just talk). Anyway, the gas line on Siegfried, the big chain saw, went west. The nearest dealer is in Talkeetna, so up the Parks highway I drove, somewhat hampered by construction.

Talkeetna is an interesting place. I call it the Greenwich Village of the Mat-Su valley. All kinds of craftsy people hang out there. It is also the jumping-off place for an assault on Denali (shown on maps as Mt. McKinley, but nobody in Alaska calls it that) so in summer it is a busy place, and beseiged by tourists, who can get there by a variety of means.

By far the most picturesque is the Alaska Railroad. This is an Alaska institution, worthy of a post all by itself. When I got "downtown" I found the Alaska railway fully represented.
Note the snowplow on the loco, AKA 3010. Alas, the AKRR does not run steam (I am a railway freak and a steam maniac) but one has to put up with many disappointments in life. This is obviously an excursion train out of Anchorage pro bono tourists. The train was on a siding; it soon backed on to the main line.
So soon the turistas will clamber aboard and enjoy a scenic ride back to Anchorage.

But if you want a more modern form of transportation, there is this:
This is a floatplane service in Talkeetna. They will fly fishermen to remote lakes, vacationers to inaccessible cabins, tourists to glaciers, and whatever else offers. For a fee, of course. Operating a plane, even a putt-putt like a Cessna, is expensive. I have got to do a post on floatplanes; as you probably have inferred, I like planes.

Finally, and very prosaically, you can drive up the Parks highway to about mile 95 and take the Talkeetna spur into town. So you can't get to Talkeetna by boat, but you can get there almost any other way, including bicycle if you are hardy enough.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pole Lathe antics

The treadle on my pole lathe is makeshift to say the least. Couple of pieces of scrap plywood, a lath on the end. This will not do. I shall be drummed out of the bodger's forum in disgrace. So I went to my lumberyard, the alder and birch cuttings left over from the scythe Stürm und Drang session early this spring and last year, and found a likely-looking fork, quite serendipitous. I was aiming for something like Mike Abbot's treadle. Some drawknifing, some drilling, a bolt, and we have a new treadle.
Easier to make than Mike's treadle, but it does require a likely fork. I am beginning to think that you can dream up any shape and go find an alder in said shape. No hinges, so we cobbled up 2x4 plus nail hinge, and installed the thing.
So far so good. But there is a catch: the treadle is heavy. It jerks the lathe around. The masses of the lathe and the treadle are comparable. There are ways to fix this, of course. But the alder treadle is green. Lots of water. So I will let it dry out, and then we will see. It will be much lighter in a few months.

I then reinstalled the old treadle and went about making a taper reamer, following Jenny Alexander's instructions (greenwoodworking home page). It requires a keyhole saw blade and a turning.
With this thing, you can drill a hole and make it cone-shaped. And why, you might ask, would you do this? To make stick chairs, of course. You find some likely sticks in the Chalupy lumberyard, drill holes, shave rungs and jam the (pointed) rungs into the (tapered) holes. It is not elegant but it is rustic! More in subsequent posts.

Maximilian does his thing

Some time ago I took a deep breath and bought a scythe from I ordered a brush blade, since there is a piece of my property (I suspect is was once a goat pasture) that was badly overgrown in alder and junior birch, to say nothing of weeds. The scythe came with a custom-tailored snath, or handle, in the European pattern, a book (David Tresemer's The Scythe book) and a peening jig, not to mention a whetstone complete with waterproof sheath (keeps the stone wet). I ordered a brush blade with it, made in Austria and so I named it Maximilian after a deceased Austrian emperor.
With Maximilian, I cleared more brush last year than I had in the previous three years. I have used every cutting tool you can think of, one of them motorized. But Max is far, far superior. This year I don't have so much brush, but I'm cutting weeds and some clover left in the pasture. Max makes no noise, uses no gas, and cuts through 25mm alder with ease. Of course, it takes time to learn how to use him. Once, long ago, I did Karate. It is much the same thing as a horse kick in Karate. Right knee forward and bent. Swing the hip -- arms shouldn't do much. The thing must be kept razor-sharp. You whet frequently, whenever you think of it, in fact. If whetting fails it's time to peen. This takes less than 10 minutes with the jig. When you get it right it's zen.
The stroke carries most of the cuttings over to the side. This makes a neat windrow, to which you apply the bull rake later. The results are
You can see the "before" on the right of the pic. I don't pretend to be an expert scythesman. But I improve with practice. I must get a grass blade. Maybe I could mow the "lawn" with it. I find it much less exhausting than pushing a lawnmower. There is something to old tech after all.

The cuttings go straight into the compost heap. A lot like haying without the hassle. If my "hay" spoils, so much the better; it has to decompose anyway!

Friday, July 2, 2010

An improvised Auger

Those of us who drill really big holes by hand, 25mm (1") and up, know that a bit brace is really at its limit and an eggbeater drill is totally overwhelmed. If you are doing mortise-and tenon work on outdoor construction, the recommended mortise is something like 50mm (2") for big stuff. I need to do a woodshed; I'd like to timber-frame it. For that, 32mm (11/4") would be OK; but you need a hand-turned auger. Really what you want is a boring machine:
This is a Miller's Falls model, circa 1900. It is a geared contraption; gives you great torque, handles 50mm with ease. Unfortunately they are not made anymore; the collectibles mania (the curse of all us old-tool users) has driven the price up above $500 in most cases. So unless a boring machine drops into my lap, heaven-sent, I will have to do with a handled auger. Sometimes you can find them in antique stores; alas they are (in my experience) broken beyond repair. My only example has a blunted leadscrew. So what to do?

I have an old drill bit, 25mm, picked up somewhere for $1. Unfortunately the pyramid-shaped bit had been cut off by some insensitive person who wanted to use it in a power drill. Good luck with that -- your household drill will stall with an auger bit that large. But, like Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky" song goes, "Ha, ha, I hev idea!" I filed the top of the thing square, more or less. Then I stuck it in a tap handle. Metal-cutting taps are augers, after all, but they have squared shanks.
And voila, a hand turned auger real cheap! I need to find a really big tap wrench, but that is much easier to do than to find a big auger. Time for a trip to Mutant Mike's (a tool-rich and, er, eclectic thrift store). I hasten to add that "Mutant Mike's Post-Apocalyptic Junk Store" is my son's description of this valuable storehouse, and I won't identify it for fear of lawsuits.

The Dragon Anvil at work

Having weeded the garden (a perpetual process), it is time to play with the new Dragon Anvil. My shop is one big inflammable, so I decided to move the whole shebang ouside.
My project is to forge a hook tool, used to turn bowls on foot-powered lathes. The raw material is a tine that broke off my spading fork. On the left, Dragon Anvil and proto-hook; on the right is the forge -- a firebrick hut on someone's discarded barbecue. Not visible is the Dragon Lady, a propane-powered torch I have mentioned before. The Dragon Lady will heat the proto-hook to boiled-carrot color in about three minutes. I have the same problem here that I have with microforging (q.v.) -- small pieces don't stay hot very long. But it is enormous fun, bashing hot metal into shape. I messed up many a time, losing a "heat" as the blacksmiths say; for instance the vise-grips I am using as tongs slip and I drop the piece on the ground. Grrr. Still, if you don't try you won't learn.

Today I used a regular propane torch to heat the tip of the hook, for refining the shape. Slowly... but the Dragon Anvil is wonderful. At last, a solid object to bash against.

If you think the anvil is pointing the wrong way, remember that I'm left-handed. Sometimes the world looks like one big right-handed conspiracy theory.