Technology


When we moved too our current house, one of the first plants we put was a white flowering climbing rose. Back then the rose was not even 1 meter tall. Within 6 years the rose grew 5 meters high and covering  a whole corner of our house. At least twice a year I have to prune it back, not only to keep it in some sort of shape but also to make sure we can reach our front door. I usually use a long ladder put against the house and cut the branches from there. This is done paying a price in blood, I look like I fought of a horde of jaguars.

I already looked at the huge plastic telescopic pruning shears they sell at gardening groceries, but they all came close to €100, and I thought it was a bit steep. But 2 weeks ago there was a garage sale in a neighbourhood near our house and I found this, for €3.

Beautiful simple construction, you lock the hook thingy around the branch and pull the cord. I really like the curled up spring, that moves the blade back, when you release the cord. 

Now that the blade is sharpened it works very well especially on rose shoots which are not woody. But I’ve cut a 1 cm think wooden branch without problem.  You can take the blade apart from the hook by unscrewing the nut, making it easy too sharpen. I think that is key with this type of shears, since seems to be much lighter in construction then the modern ones. The modern ones seem to rely more on blunt force then a sharp blade.

Now I have to find a pole long and strong enough to reach up to the roof, I’ve put the shears on a 1.8m broomstick now, but I need at least 4 meters. I have to make something that I can take apart for storage or when I don’t need to cut so high.

I don’t know exactly how old this would be, I would guess somewhere round the fifties. But that is an uneducated guess, I could as well say forties. It does not have any brand name or makers stamp and it looks kind of industrial. I like the way it looks, it works very well for me (always better than bloodied on the ladder), so all in all €3 well spent. I rarely feel that way after spending money. 

Here I’m using it for the pruning the grapes, wich we are not going to eat (again). The cold weather is causing them not to ripen and they are super acid, but the chickens seem to like em.

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Last few weeks have been very busy, Seba’s birthday, several other projects, the garden, very warm weather. But I finally managed to put the plants on the roof. It took me a couple of days preparation, the planting itself took place in one day. Which wasn’t a very pleasant day, it was 34ºC, standing on a black foil, putting black soil. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated more.

But it looks really good, I’m very pleased with it. The pictures don’t do it right, it looks much prettier in real life. I’m going to try to make some better pictures from above tomorrow.

The roof is made with 500 sedum plants, 600 liters of soil, and 300 kg of stones.

And right after puting all of this on the roof it was put to the test with a 100km/h rainstorm. And to my suprise it survived it. Unlike the roof of our house which is missing 2 tiles and has at least 8 broken tiles, and also some of the fences around the hous flew away. I was a bit nervous about the storm because the sedum stil has to get roots to bind te earth, but all went well.

The first couple of walls have been cladded with larch (larix ) planks, somehow I imagined this job to go lots faster. It looks pretty straight forward. Grab a plak, saw of the ends and put it on. But it turned out to be a job where you can’t have enough hands.

Later these planks will be painted with Falu rödfärg , most probably red, but we are not entirely sure about that. We’ll see.
The advantage of using this type paint is that I don’t have to prime, sand or shave the planks. Which basically saves me lots of time.  I especially dislike sanding I hate the dust, but that I did not consider while choosing the paint type :-).  Another advantage is the limited amount of available colours it is red, light red, black and grey, this saves a lot of discussion about the choice of colour.

Mariana has been asking for a good working space for her business for a while. And after stumbling over the spinning wheel and ending with my head in a pile of handmade felt “we” decided it was time for her own space. The first option was the finish up the attic nicely. But there where a couple of problems there. A general lack of natural light, and the fact that we can’t stand up straight are just a couple of them.

We thought of sharing the shed AKA my studio (actually an old pig stake and hen house), which is now my woodworking place, bike and crap storage. But wood means lots of splinters and pieces flying around. And that is not a nice combination with wool.

So a new building it is! Since I happen to like working with wood, and hate plastering with a passion, the choice of material was already decided upon. We started looking around for ready made log houses but they where either to flimsy, too big, too small, too ugly, not fitting or too expensive. So…

In a flash of overconfidence we decided to make it ourselves. It would have to be a cross between a log house and a timber frame structure. Too keep a bit of a challenge I said I was going to do it all with hand tools, I got a bit exited when I saw the work of these people and also Ben Law. Mind you that they are professional woodworkers and I can carve a spoon.

So here are some progress pictures:

I’ve got great help, from bob the builder.

Some tools, including my self made mallet.

Inspection of the first beams standing up.

Starting with the roof, I haven’t used a single nail or screw yet, it is one big jigsaw puzzle.

Well for now things seem to be going well, the structure is very stable. Later when the walls are made the structure will be even more stable.

The roof is going to be a green one, with sedum plants, but more about that later.

I acquired these three draw knives via the Dutch version of e-bay. I’m normally not a big fan of buying unseen second hand tool via the internet, but these where just too much of a bargain. The top one in the image is a bark peeling drawknife, the other two are carving drawknives. The top one was in the best shape, I just had to put two new handles and a bit of sharpening and it is good to go. I really like the old handles on the middle one, but the edge is blunt and uneven. The bottom one is in worst shape, the edge is very bad and the handles are pretty horrid too.

The bottom two need a completely new edge, it is terribly mistreated . The edge angle is uneven, has pits and  is worn away in the middle much more then elsewhere. Also it has some damage, probably from falling. I started grinding a rough new edge on them today but it is going to take me some time to restore these to their former glory. I think that it is worth the effort, it is 3 good tools rescued from rusting away. But it will be a long time until they are going to be used on the shaving horse.

I’am busy making some wooden cups. They are inspired by Sami Guksi’s or kuksa’s but also by turned wooden bowls, called masers made by Robin Wood. Traditionally a kuksa has a handle with a hole to put your finger trough, the once I’ve made before don’t. I don’t know yet how these are going to turn out. In the picture below you can see some cups that I’m finishing.

The difficulty of making cups is in two things first the thickness of the wall, I’m aiming for 4-7 mm. It is hard to make the wall nice and equal, I sometimes leave the walls and especially the bottom to thick. The second difficulty is the drying process. Unlike a spoon, a cup has a bigger diameter and crosses more growth rings of the wood. Drying results in much more tension in the wood and therefore there is a good chance of cracks. Drying these cups has to be done extremely slowly.

First I have to find a log with at least a 250mm diameter, I split it in half and remove the bark. While removing the bark I check for irregularities like knots and cracks, depending on the location I use it as a feature in the cup handle, but sometimes I have to discard a log. Then I take out all the core wood, this would cause the cup to split when drying. The process of debarking, splitting and taking out the core wood is done with an axe. Then I even things up with a plane.

I draw the rough shape of the cup essentially, a circle on, the log and start taking out the surplus wood from the sides, again using an axe. In this case the wood is very nice oak and it has no irregularities. So I can make 3 cups from the same log at once. I drill a large hole in the middle with a d 30mm auger. This will speed up the hollowing significantly.

I hollow out the cup using a large curved gouge, then a smaller one and eventually a spoon knife. I try to make the hole already round and nice, because it is easy to hold the cup in a vice now, but later in the process I have to hold it in my hands and it will make it harder to use strength.

For now I have to stop carving not because of the process I could continue but I have a family, the trick is to not let the wood dry out too fast. Which is not a very big problem because it is freezing, but I still have to put it in a plastic bag so it remains wet.

Later I will continue with the carving of the wood, during that time I keep the cup in a plastic bag, slowly opening it to let more moist out, thus drying the wood. This drying takes around a month. When the wood is all dried you can start smoothing the surface. Wet wood will not give you a smooth surface.
Part two will be about the carving with a knife.

This is a shaving horse, I made it of some leftover wood. It is basically a clamp for greenwood carving.  With your feet you push down on the lever that clamps the wood down so you have your hands free to use a two handed drawknife.

A drawknife has the advantage that you can take thick shavings off, while still have control and precision. You grab the drawknife and pull it toward you while your feet push against the lever and fix the wood in position. Therefore is physically impossible to cut yourself this way, it is possible to fall of the shaving horse.

I’m still experimenting a bit with the clamp itself, I used a piece op round wood now. But in retrospect it might be better to use something with a hammer shape that has a bigger clamping surface.

See more shaving horses here

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