bookmark_borderTest Cutting

I spent a bunch of time today buying a new band saw blade and setting up machines so I could make some test cuts on scrap wood to prototype some interesting joinery for a new folding stool design.

mortise and tenon
New Shogi Joinery

How do you join a 1.25″ wide board perpendicular to a 1.25″ dowel? It takes a forstner bit, a band saw, and a mortising machine. I’m pretty excited to see how this works out on an actual project.

bookmark_borderArmrest Coaster

Some months ago, we got a new sofa and comfy chair for the den. These pieces are very rectangular, and go nicely with the Mid-Century Modern look of the den, but it’s very tempting to rest your drink on the armrest while you’re sitting in them, which would be unwise since that drink is likely to sweat or spill onto the upholstery. I’ve seen little table-like structures that sit on the arm of a couch, and I figured, “I am a woodworker, and I don’t need to pay those prices for somebody else to make this for me.” Behold!

Coaster, armrest-type, from walnut
Walnut Armrest Coaster

I had a walnut board in the garage, left over from some project long ago. The corners are miter-cut, and I managed to keep track of the pieces well enough that you can see the grain flow around the bend. The corner joinery is reinforced with splines, also from walnut). You can see that I had a difficult time getting all this glued up, because of the blotches in the linseed oil finish.

This was a pretty-good fast project, only taking a few hours over the weekend. I may wind up making a couple more of these.

bookmark_borderAshiuchidai v1.1

An ashiuchidai is a piece of braiding equipment used when braiding long loop braids. If the material is too long, it’s impossible to pull the “stitches” tight by spreading your hands apart. The ashiuchidai provides a fixed point to hold the braid up where you can work it easily, and a beater bar that can be activated by tugging on a string. The string can be tied to your toe so that moving your foot taps the stitches into place while your hands braid.

I made this ashiuchidai back in June of last year, but I recently added some features to it to improve its performance. There are two stabilizers that keep the beater bar centered and straight on the axle (only one is visible in the photo), and five brass pins added to the beater (visible as the dark dots on the back ot the blade just below the tip) as counterweight. Despite my best efforts, the beater could still get stuck in the “up and in the way” position, and this counter-weighting makes it much more likely that the beater will fall back out of the way.

Ashiuchidai version 1.1
Ashiuchidai v1.1

I still have to try it out! I haven’t made the “helping-hands” that allow you to put down the loops while you’re loop braiding, so trying out the ashiuchidai means devoting a block of time to completing a braid that is pretty long.

bookmark_borderFirst Braid of the Year

I’ve made a resolution to start doing more 16-tama braids. I have been braiding for more than 10 years, and even though 8-tama braids are still fun to do, I should show some discipline and exert some real effort. This one is a good start because this pattern (Creative Kumihimo 16D) only has four steps, and you only move eight of the tama during each iteration. This gives the braid a nice twill structure and (if you set up the colors just right) this nice alternating zig-zag ring appearance. It may look round, but the shape of the braid is actually more octagonal.

16-tama braid in red and white silk
16-tama braid in red and white silk

Anyway, this braid is in Æthelmearc colors and has medallion-cord fittings. It will go to the Kingdom at some point.

bookmark_borderHelping Mr. Arimoto

Longtime fans of my work will remember that I have taken some woodworking classes with Tadao Arimoto, a Japanese-born woodworker who has a studio in the Northside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Every once in a while I will stop by his workshop to visit and get caught up, and sometimes when I am not working he will ask me to help out if he needs a couple of extra hands for something.

This past Monday, I helped him take apart a sushi bar that he built “years ago” for Sushi Kim down in the Strip district. I’ve eaten at Sushi Kim a few times in the past 30 years that I have been living here, and it’s a real shame to see it closing. Mr. Kim is going to open a smaller takeout place in North Oakland (314 North Craig Street), and he has sold the building to the Heinz History Center that is across the alleyway from the restaurant.

Anyway, these pieces were way too big for one person to move, and everything was held together by about a billion screws. Mr. Arimoto actually had two of us helping him, loading out all the trash, and moving the pieces of the sushi bar to his workshop where they will be reworked for the new place.

Sushi bar parts in a truck, with Mr. Arimoto
Mr. Arimoto’s truck, loaded with a Sushi Bar

The bar itself, consisting of about 8 yards of 2-inch thick ash, is on the bottom of the pile there. It took us all day to get the bar pried out of place and moved to the workshop. This thing was solid enough to be used for 30 years, and then still strong enough that we could stand on it while taking some parts down from over the bar. It was a fun day, but I will admit that I sometimes have an odd sense of fun.

bookmark_borderSquare Barony Braid

During my blogging hiatus, I also stopped obsessively documenting every last kumihimo braid that I do. Most of my braiding over the last 6.5 years has been making medallion cords for the local SCA Barony and Kingdom, and while this year was something of an exception (more on that when I get the chance), the last day of 2019 year was not. So here is the braid.

Braid from 2019.12.31
Kaku Yatsu in black and gold, 2019.12.31

It’s just an 8-strand square braid in black and gold silk lace-weight yarn, eight plies of yarn per tama, about a yard long ( as are most of my medallion cord braids).

bookmark_borderMusic of 2019

What albums did I acquire in 2019?

Elbow, Giants of All Sizes (2019)
The new album from Elbow, I don’t have quite the emotional attachment to this album as I do Seldom Seen Kid, but these elbums tend to grow on me over time.
Laurie Anderson et al., Songs from the Bardo (2019)
Performed with a large number of other artists, this is not an album of “songs”, but a set of lessons for you to memorize so that you can recall them when you are in the bardo, the place where you are after your body dies. If you can remember and follow the instructions, you will achieve enlightenment. Heavy stuff.
Eric Johnson, Collage (2017)
Catching up on things that were released in years previous, that I wasn’t paying enough attention to notice, this is EJ’s return to electric performance after the next album on this list.
Eric Johnson, ej (2016)
Catching up, this album is all acoustic recordings of various works.
R.E.M., Accelerate (2008)
For some reason, neither Sharon nor I bought this album when it came out, even though I have purchased all of their albums since this one.
The Cars, Move Like This (2011)
Back from the dead after their ascension to Valhalla, The Cars released this album to absolutely no notice that I can remember. I can’t even listen to it. I have no emotional connection to any of this, and can’t force myself to make one.
Smithsonian Folkways, Japan: Semiclassical and Folk Music (1974)
More background music for Pennsic, this joins the library of stuff I bought for last year. It’s probably not historical, but it’s mostly premodern and very Japanese. Some of it really rocks, actually.
Various Artists, Twin Peaks; Music from the Limited Event Series (2017)
I loved the way each episode of the limited series ended in the roadhouse bar, with some band playing. I could have done with less Z. Z. Top and more Silencio, but I will take this, no question. Some cool stuff on this.
Various Artists, Twin Peaks; Limited Event Series Soundtrack (2017)
Angelo, speak to me with your fingers and toes.
Steve Moore, Beloved Exile (2019)
A solo album from one half of Zombi, I wasn’t going to buy this at all, but his label kept promoting it on YouTube, and eventually I realized that I like it a lot. Still want a new Zombi album, but this is good.
Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet, Landfall (2017)
A series of musical monologues where Laurie talks about experiences surrounding Hurricane Sandy. It’s full of metaphors for love and loss over time, and you shouldn’t miss it.
Joe Satriani, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards (2010)
Catching up, here is more Joe Satriani.
Toto, Dune; Original Soundtrack Recording (1984)
Picked this up used, and could not put it down. Who doesn’t love this jaw-dropping soundtrack to this notoriously impenetrable film?
Joe Satriani, What Happens Next (2018)
Started out the new year buying an album that came out in just the previous year. Not quite catching up.
MONO, Nowhere, Now Here (2019)
new album by Japanese band MONO. “Mono” means something like “thing” in Japanese, so it’s not a bad label for this crazy group. I don’t keep up with their live recordings, but their studio albums are must-buys for me.
Jean-Michel Jarre, Equinoxe Infinity (2018)
Jean-Michel really takes it back. Sharon has the other Equinoxe, so I wanted to build. He’s on the same label as Mono, is the only reason I knew these were out.
Jean-Michel Jarre, Oxygene 3 (2016)
I have the first two parts of the Oxygene triptych, and didn’t realize this had come out. This is totally an Oxygene album. All new music, but all one with the others. You can really play them in a row and not know where one ends and the next begins.
Joe Satriani, Shockwave Supernova (2015)
Catching up, you bet. I can’t really point to huge standout works on any of these recent Satriani albums, but more of the same is still more of great stuff, so I am perfectly willing to help Joe buy groceries.

A pretty big year for my music collection, actually. I was employed for ten months out of twelve, which tends to make me feel well-funded and in a mood to support the artists I love.

bookmark_borderGray Smock Project

Most years, I try to make one of my holiday gifts for Sharon be something that I made myself. This year, I decided sort of at the last minute that it would be a knock-off of a garment she bought for herself earlier this year. She bought a kind of smock / poncho garment, and it has become one of her favorite things. It’s a good thing to throw on as an extra layer for warmth, and it adds a couple of handy pockets. The catalog she got it from only offers a couple of colors, and she bought the one she liked. If she was going to have another one, it would have to be hand made.

Smock Gray Sharon 2019
Sharon in her new gray smock

The fabric is a light gray mostly cotton stretch knit. Don’t underestimate the comlexity of this garment. The shoulders actually slope down from the neckhole, and the sides taper in towards the bottom hem. The hems have narrow turn-unders, and mitered corners. The pockets have rounded bottom corners. The neck hole has a narrow facing band. I have done almost no work with this kind of stretch knit fabric before.

Anyway, it took me a few days to get everything laid out, cut out, lanned out, and sewn. It was finished in time for the holiday, but still had chalk marks all over it so it had to be washed before it could be worn. Sharon sent all day yesterday wearing it, and found it to be as comfortable as the original, so success.