29 July 2012

Party Piece...

Every now and again I get the urge to make a box, but this one was for a special event, namely my youngest brother's 50th birthday present.  I made some mention it it in this post some time ago but couldn't reveal any details until after the party...

...and what a party it was.  Suffice to say that we downed 45 bottles of champagne, the real deal and not some some cheap and nasty, imitation 'look alike' stuff...'nuff said!  Robin is shown above and the three of us (with my other brother Roger) are in the pic below, taken at some inebriated point during the evening.

The box itself is pretty straightforward and made from a particularly nasty, kiln dried lump of oak that had to be sanded into submission as it was almost impossible to plane.  The top panel is a much better piece of quarter sawn air-dried stuff. 

Jointing is through dovetailed with an ebony:

...line inserted between the lid and box.  The corner chamfers were planed in with my LN block and then left straight from the plane as any sanding may have reduced the overall 'crispness' of the detailing.

The lining is made from a small section of Brown Oak as is the veneered base.  There were no really horrendous 'cock ups' worth mention, apart from the timber...

...so I detest kiln dried timber with a passion!

25 July 2012

Diamond or Dutchman?

Whilst I've been boring you at length with tales from the Orient, activities in the 'shop haven't been forgotten as I'm well under way with a new cabinet.  I won't divulge quite what it's for yet, but it's for a specific purpose.  As is my usual practice when I don't know what I'm doing, which you may gather, is most of the time, I made a mock up:

...of one side in pine, with a top and bottom screwed in place.  What's unusual about this (and will entail all sorts of cunning and devious techniques to build it) is that there are four corner styles, each set at 45deg to the frames, two of which can be seen in the mock up.

The material is English Walnut, of which I now have a not inconsiderable stash but the piece shown in the back panel:

...was rescued from a  set of doors that I made for my 'final job' at Shoreditch College in 1977...and if you'd care to rummage through that site, you'll probably find a pic of me somewhere (second row, rh side...and the young lady in red in front of me was later my girlfriend for a while) The back panel is shown gluing together whilst the two fairly straight forward side frames are Domino'd together (what a great bit of kit!), then rebated to take the glass:

...are shown above.  So far so good, n'est pas?  Now we come to the corner styles, which weren't too difficult to make and which are joined to the two side frames and back panel with 4mm slithers of ply, located in stopped grooves...again, not difficult on the router table.

  Once complete and assembled (dry) onto: 

...the side frames, you can see that it's starting to take shape.  Because the construction of this piece is a bit unusual, I've been thinking (ha!) quite hard about the sequence of events needed to build this and I spent a long, long time working out how to do the joints between the panels and having thought about it I proceeded to cut eight...say again eight, stopped slots.

This cabinet though, will have a door and doors don't need routed slots because it, the door, doesn't need to be joined onto the styles.

I'd cut eight bloody slots and six were needed!

Bloody hell and buggeration!

There was nothing for it but to fill the slots with some long, thin bits of walnut...remaking the styles was out of the question as I didn't have enough material.  The pic below shows the competed frames from the inside:

...and if you click on the pic above, you can just about see one of the infills.  My guestimation is that once its polished and in place in the cabinet, both of them will be invisible...unless you know what you're looking for.

When I was a mere callow youth back at Shoreditch in the seventies, there was a particularly revolting, fizzy keg beer that we all used to quaff in vast quantities called Double Diamond...nod at the back if you remember it!  This is definitely not a Double Diamond, but it is without any question a Double Dutchman!

19 July 2012

Japan X111 - The Imperial Capital

Kyoto...the last of the current Blog entries for Japan.  For some odd and inexplicable reason, I had it fixed in my head that Kyoto, being the old, imperial capital of Japan, would be a small, quaint place dotted with the odd temple or two and perhaps a palace...a little bit like one of our old cathedral cities, say York or even my own home town of Salisbury.

Wrong...very wrong.  Kyoto is big, not on the same scale as Toyko but big none the less.  There are very comprehensive bus routes and a rudimentary subway system, so that together with a population of around a million people, it's a fairly daunting place to get around.  As ever though, everything is so well organised that it's really quite easy.

Kyoto sits in a bowl surrounded by hills.  The central part of the city is a huge, modern complex of slabby skyscrapers and department stores, set out on a grid pattern in the American fashion, with all the older parks, temples and places of interest further out towards the hills.

The city also was the only place in Japan where we frequently saw the locals in the traditional...

...kimono, where it's accepted as perfectly normal, which of course...it is!  One of our party mentioned that the way that the 'obi' or sash is tied at the back indicates if the lady is married or not, apparently the two in the picture above aren't.  It's also an opportunity for a bit of...


One of the highlights of our stay in Kyoto was a visit to Nijo Castle, set in fabulous grounds.  The complex itself is huge, but by clicking the link you can gain a pretty fair impression of the place.  As  a bit of a woodworker, the most fascinating thing for me were the series of...

...'Nightingale Floors' (or Uguisubari) in the Ninomaru Palace that surrounded the most important rooms.  I thought that they would give an ear rending, parrot like squawk, but the sound given off, especially when there were lots of tourists walking on them, was a delightful, muted squeak that was exactly like bird song.

There's a graphic set on the wall in the entrance showing how they were constructed some 400 years ago, which I photographed and tried to understand, but it still didn't make a lot of sense.  It wasn't until we were outside the palace buildings, (where we saw a teacher pointing to something underneath the floorboards), that the penny dropped.

What seems to happen is that there's a special soft iron nail used, where the end has been flattened and clenched over so that a hook is formed.  This then bears on an opening in the underside of the floorboard so that when fixed the whole affair is slightly flexible...pressure on top of the board from people walking on it moves the iron nail slightly which then rubs in it's slot on the underside of the floorboard producing the sound.

The gardens were equally stunning, with the quite deliberate placement of rocks and trees.

The last few days of our stay in Kyoto was at the Ryokan Yoshimizu Inn, located in the foothills of Maruyama Park, some 30 minutes brisk walk away from the centre of the city.  It's the very last building on outskirts of Kyoto, so that by looking out of our window we just had a view of the green woodland rising behind.

After staying at the anonymous, soulless, Toyoko Inn in the centre of town, the ryokan provided a haven of peace and tranquillity.

One trip that we made was to the Arashiyama district on the other side of the city, using the No12 bus from Gion Corner and thence by...

...a tram through the suburbs.  Once we'd arrived, we made our way to see the unique bamboo grove that's around 200m long, where a kind of...

...arched canopy has been framed as the bamboo grows.

In roughly the same area of Kyoto is probably the most famous of all the temples in Japan, the aptly named...

...Golden Pavilion, though the one shown in the pic is only around fifty years old, the original one having been burnt down by a mad monk!...and yes, it is covered entirely in gold leaf.  Apart from this one,  there are approximately 1600 other temples and shrines in Kyoto, one of the most impressive ones being the..

..Kiyomizu-dera, built onto the side of a hill.  As with all the temples and shrines in Japan, there's always somewhere...

...to make a wish (why did I have to wear purple socks and a pink shirt?..beats me!)

There were crowds of people around, many of whom were the immaculately turned out Japanese school children, who frequently accost Western tourists asking them to write a letter when they arrive home...something I did quite soon when we returned to England.

One of the things to see at the temple are the famous 'Love Stones', two large blocks set roughly 15m apart.  The theory is that if you can walk blindfolded between the stones without aid, you are destined to find 'true love.'

Every temple and shrine has a Tori gate, which are always painted a bright orange colour.  The purpose of the gate is to stop evil spirits from entering the holy place and this particular one...

...was just outside the Heian Jinju Shrine.  I'm standing someway in front of it, but those concrete pillars  are some 3 or 4m wide at the base!  The 4Km path up to the Fushimi Inari Shrine though...

...has a thousand!

One of the many temples we visited had a traditional...

...Zen rock garden, with what appeared to be a...

...dragon slumbering within the gravel.  Also within the grounds of the temple is a traditional...

...Tea House, where the famous Tea Ceremony was performed (and still is) by Geisha..

...shown above, though this pic was taken from the Internet.  By all accounts, it's quite difficult to see geisha in Kyoto, as there are many young girls who assume the costume and naturally hope to attract the attention of the camera wielding tourist.
However, twice a year the genuine Geisha perform a series of three act plays in local theatres around the Gion District and we were fortunate enough to see them.   Taking pictures is strictly forbidden in the theatre itself, so the first three pics have been lifted from the Internet...

....but I did manage to sneak one off ...

...during the performance, for which I received a disapproving glare from a severe looking Japanese matriarch just in front.  All was not lost though, because after the show, I managed to snap a pic of...

...the genuine article coming out of the theatre.

Kyoto seems to be the place to get married and it's common practise to have the wedding photos taken a day or so prior to the event and I was lucky enough to take a swift picture of the couple below, taken in one of the many small shrines that dot the Maruyama Park.

We did though, see a couple of actual weddings at the Yasaka Shrine.

On my many and varied wanderings around the centre of the city, I came across the famous Aritsugu kitchen knife shop, who've been making blades since 1560.

I'd wanted a decent set of knives for the kitchen for some time, so I didn't waste the opportunity and bought...

...a couple, each of which was engraved with my name!

This brings to a close the gargantuan entry on Kyoto and also this series of Blog entries for Japan.  Normal service will resume shortly where you'll no doubt chortle about the many and varied cock-ups that still keep occurring in the 'shop!