Irreducible Simplicity

I probably didn’t coin the term, but it’s new to me. Micheal Behe, in his book “Darwin’s Black Box” used the term “irreducible complexity”. An important book and term; I highly recommend it.

Most of the time, my best solutions are the simplest ones. It can take try after retry to reduce an idea down to its essentials. It’s also good mental exercise. Yesterday, I once again needed a tool to help draw a border around a sign, using a pencil. I have one that’s broken, so I decided to make a better one.

My nearly final idea was what’s shown in the sketch below. It would use two flat carpenter’s pencils, so that the one drawing the line would stay on its edge, not fall to its broadside. The problem with this design was that I didn’t leave a wide enough lip . So I thought about it more, using only the same wood, leather strap, and flat pencil.

“Close, but no cigar”

I realized that the strap could be tied around the wood, as an immovable guide for the pencil; and that I could change the edge shape of the pencil, so that it could be held in a staedy way. So that’s what works. I hold the pencil against the strap, and draw a line around the sign. Once again, the free pair of metal shears I was given shows it’s practicality by doing a nice job of cutting the leather strap.

The first picture is the Eastern Red Cedar piece after sanding, but before shellac. The second picture is after shellac. The third picture shows the strap in position, and the flattened place on the edge of the pencil. The last picture shows the line I drew with the tool.

Like heaven to touch.
Brings out the beautiful color.

A Cover For The Torch

I use oxy-propane instead of oxy-acetylene for my cutting torch. My shop space is small, so I don’t store it inside. For a few years, I’ve had it under a new plastic trash can, but it looks bad. I finally made a cover for it, from scrounged metal a friend had left over from a job. The winds always blow north or south, so it only needs the side walls. It rained a few hours after I made it, so it’s already been tested.

The ‘pragmatic’ cover
The torch set itself.
Much better.

Big Job, Winter Scenes

I’m painting a large RR coach right now, and the paint booth that it’s in is only available for a limited time; so I have to concentrate on that job. There are still things going on with the Quill and Blade business.

I’ve been thinking about how to make a steam bender for wood. Initially, I planned on using a large section of round metal duct work; which is a dark grey color. I want the project to have an old time look. Then I saw a guy online who has one in his shop. It was a long box, not a round tube. His is made of wood, and I realized that metal would be too difficult to heat, and the square dimensions are smarter for putting in squared wood.

I also lubed my collection of manual jacks (not hydraulic) and made better handles for them. It’s the first time in months I’ve had the forge fired up. I’ll use these to lift my wood building up for transportation.

Here’s a few winter scenes from the recent snow fall. My blog posting will be sparse the next several days.

The canoe waits for the warm season, the bull tolerates the cold.

Country Living

A neighbor raises cattle, one of his calves got stuck in mud, and its mother abandoned it. My kids pulled it out and brought it home. It’s winter, and we don’t know how long it was left there. The first picture shows my daughter trying to give it warm fresh milk from our own Jersey cow, while it’s still in the box we brought it home in. The calf didn’t drink much, and couldn’t stand up. It was determined that it probably wouldn’t make it.

But it was given a warm bath, which changed it’s condition very much. It’s now drinking milk, and standing.

I came out one recent morning, and the moon was still bright, but just about to go down behind the trees.

Testing the Lightning Scraper II

This is the roof of a RR coach. It was previously painted with the silver colored roof coating, which has caused problems for subsequent layers of paint. I’ve encountered flaking paint like this often; and wanted to make a multi directional scraper. Most scrapers only work one or two directions, I wanted one that can work in any direction.

I realized it needed a round blade. the first one was only a handle and blade. It worked well, but reaching down a curved surface was a little bit of a hazard. So I made it bigger, and added a shaft. This is the Lightning Scraper 2, and it works very well. The scraped area in the picture was done in about 4 minutes. There has been a slight modification since these pictures were taken, but I’ll show that when I display this model of tool for sale.

On the home front, my son got some firewood that smells like oak when split, but is very difficult to split. I drove a steel wedge all the way down in it, but it still wouldn’t come apart. So I went and got the Hickory wood maul, and several Dogwood gluts. In the picture, the steel wedge is sunk in the wood, to the right of the wood wedge, which is called a glut. Behind the piece of wood is the Hickory maul, it looks like a cave man club. We’ll be selling both of these wood tools.

I’m wondering if I should do some of my pictures in black and white.

My First Cherry Wood Pipe

I got a lot further along on my Cheery wood pipe today; it’s pretty much finished save for a little fitting between the stem and bowl. This first picture shows the large hole being bored. The stem is in two pieces, one is a piece of pine that I think is from the 1870’s. That piece has walnut stain on it, but no clear yet. The shroud for the stem is wood from Texas that my daughter sent. When I got it, there was a dark grey outer layer on all the surfaces. I took a small pocket knife blade, and scraped all that off. It was a bit time consuming to get at all the contours, but worth it. Then I put a coat of amber colored shellac on it; because it already had an unusual yellow color.

Step by step

In the next picture, it’s assembled and ready to test. As I said, it still needs some more fitting. You can see the threaded brass piece I used to attach the stem to the bowl, which would be hidden had the fitting been better. The bowl is Cherry wood, with one coat of clear shellac. these days people use fast drying lacquer as a seal coat, which works really well, in terms of production time. Shellac is traditional, which I like, and they say it brings out the color of wood better.

Not completely ready, but good enough for a test run.

The next picture was obviously hand held in low light conditions, but there it is, smoke from the first bowl full. In case you’re seeing this pipe project for the first time, I’ll reiterate: Pipes aren’t smoked the same way cigarettes are. they’re not inhaled, which makes a huge difference in terms of health hazard. Yes, there are warnings about oral cancer, but I don’t have one of these in my mouth all day, so I’m not terribly worried.

This pipe is actually huge in overall size compared to the average tobacco pipe. I’ve been researching the Indian smoking blend called KinnikKinnick; and have mixed up a bit of it. That’s what I thought I’d use this pipe for, but I decided to break it in with a Cavendish Tobacco blend, because frankly, the two part Indian blend I made up smells like a cross between Autumn leaves and cardboard when burned. Maybe the addition of Red Willow bark will help. Not a big deal, as I wanted it for the novelty and variety. I think I’ll do a separate post about the KinnikKinnick, because it’s worth it.