Survivors

Never exactly forgotten, yet long ago having lost their comparatively eminent places, behold the survivors!  Do click upon them, for they’d like that, and examine well their worn details.

I cannot escape remarking on the tropes from the Velveteen Rabbit here, that 1) “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” and 2) “It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”.

In general, and probably here as well, I am against the notion that ‘real’ is a meaningful modifier of anything.  Real imitation.  Real imagination.  Real possibility.  Get Real!  I like a sense of the real which admits everything and excludes nothing, which focuses rather on the way in which things are real.  Your dreams are real – real dreams, that is, real in a different way than things you might touch.  It is not possessing the quality of reality which distinguishes them, rather the nature of their reality.  That said, the notion I think that Margery Williams is getting at, for scrupulous yet ruthless literalists as I can be, is some sort of fullest incarnation: physical, emotional, mental, perhaps even spiritual – standing in a very different place than the number 12 written in an equation, the plastic cap on a water bottle, or even a photograph.  It is in this regard that I will share some of what I know about these characters.

Sam the Monkey was bought for me by my Grandmother Alice in Queens Village on Long Island, New York on Jamaica Avenue near the fire station in 1965.  I was either late in my second year or early in my third.  The crusty gentleman who tended the convenience store while smoking his cigar took the monkey off the wall, away from his brethren, and bestowed him upon me.  This was my second doll/toy.  The first was a bear named Atlantus, though the circumstances of his becoming mine are beyond the reach of my memory.  Atlantus, also known as Atlantus Pantus, who was very much loved, would become a victim of the puppyhood of our first dog, Mandy.  She shredded him to bits when I was seven.

Some tale must be told of each.  Sam’s is the most formidable.  If you zoom in you will notice that one of his eyes is the sort that follows you.  This was very scary to me as a tike.  So scary, in fact, that whilst still sleeping in a crib that I removed one of them.  Much less scary then, for a while at least, until that monster that Nietzsche describes, the minotaur of conscience, gets a whiff of it.

Somewhere around the age of eight I had resolved to get Sam a new eye.  Stray eyes were in short supply, however, and I felt averse to calling attention to the whole matter.  We did have a young dog, however, perhaps the perfect foil in that she had a taste for stuffed animals.  My younger sister had a small yellow and orange stuffed whale.  Mysteriously that whale was visited by fatal injuries via the teeth of that beloved dog.  A sad matter all around, but one that made a spare eye available!  Now you know.  The minotaur has compelled me to write this. 

Around the same time, first grade I believe, I was not loving the process of education.  Handwriting, in particular, was torturous.  At the end of the school year I recall throwing my notebooks out the window of the school bus so as not to have to review with my parents the many helpful criticisms they contained.  Surprisingly, though, there was a consolation.  That very day this gingerbread man, who came to be known as King James, was given to me by my mother.  Briefly I imagined that all was right and that the whole school business was a terrible mistake.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case but King James stood thereafter as significant consolation in a desolate time.

Things got better.  Crabby was supposedly made of dura-plastic and infallible rubber (of course he was plush).  Cosmic justice (meaning I had NOTHING to do with it) eventually cost him his eyes.  That dog Mandy. 

Scrappy I made from a pair of outgrown pajamas.  Noteworthy is that inside his head is another head, full on with its own eyes and mouth and nose.  Why this design was enacted I do not know, but it seemed a cool feature at the time, illustrating that all may not be as it appears.  Scrap’s entertainment value as rather as a jester.  If you threw him he would land in the most god-awful poses, suggesting terrible injuries.  Unperturbed, however, Scrappy was resiliently happy. 

In early adulthood, in the same year I think, two others joined, both found on the street. Not depicted because he went to the beyond place that dogs bring toys to, Pythagoras the stuffed bunny rabbit warranted profound compassion.  Found face down in the street, his red eyes were scraped, abraded by the pavement.  Tire tracks.  He was a wise member of the crew of survivors, for perhaps a decade.  Only the other toys know his true story.

The wooden Pinocchio was also found on the street.  Being wooden, all presume he has fewer feelings.  Despite the bad reputation Pinocchio’s have of being untruthful, however, this one has made no misrepresentations – in fact, he’s made no representations at all.  One day, perhaps, or perhaps not.

These are the survivors. 

 

Simple Platform Bed

The goal here was to make a platform for a twin mattress Design goals of keeping it simple, having it be strong, minimum investment.

As such, starting with a 4 x 8 of of 5/8 inch plywood, cut down to the size of the mattress, and three hemlock 2 x 6, shown above cut, one hemlock 6 x 6, and a sheet of masonite. Below you can observe said 6 x 6 as well as the last pieces of 2 x 6 that gather the load.

To those load gathering cross pieces I affixed the very short looking legs. It’s a tall mattress, is why, the top of which I’d like to have at a height of 25 or so inches.

I’m not sure that it could bear an elephant – in fact, I’m sure it couldn’t – but it would be most uncommon human who could damage it under normal use.

So low, it seems, and terrifying in its simplicity. The chair and stools on the left stood in as saw horses with the help of various scraps.

Low and sleek. I did later cut off the corners, about 2 x 2 x the square root of eight, because the mattress has rounded corners and shin gashes are needless.

And there, you see now it’s the right height.

In humble service, less than $100, 100 yrs > MTBF < 1000 years, or something like that.

Yes, this bed apologizes for not being made before being photographed.

Sill

Here’s yet another. I think I need a new category called ‘Repairs’.

Have a close look at how sorely decayed that prior sill. Nigh on hazardous it was. The new one is a nice sturdy piece of red birch. I thought that the piece might be partially under the sides and a pain to extract/insert, but nay, and I know, I should have painted it before I affixed the rubber tread.

The trim on the doorjambs could use a little work too, but functionality first. I must say that too little thought went into this. The sill was spongy and looking to break. Now, when I look up birch on the fabulous wood database, I discover it says of birch “Birch is perishable, and will readily rot and decay if exposed to the elements. The wood is also susceptible to insect attack”. Seems I’m led to believe that I’ll be revisiting this.

Plane Disarray Addressed

When things are in plain disarray, action needs be taken. This can be held to be self-evident. When planes are in plain disarray, the mind may be boggled. Consider how boggling this disarray:

The movement from disorder to order is, excepting the order created by life itself, unnatural. Monkeys, myself included, are guileful. This mess you see, really it is an avalanche waiting to happen, an avalanche that will demand the subsequent reorganization of its components. Had a marginally more stable chaos been created it might have persisted for far too long.

Thus, and unfortunately I have no picture, one day in early April, perhaps a loud noise, or even the footfall of a tiny mouse, and down came a tumbling, a plain plane chaos. This was all the stimulus I needed to create order, as avalanches, cascading layers of increasing disorder, are mostly an anathema to world-builders.

Take joy, for all is not lost. Light, if need be, the highest candle. Where there was chaos, let there be order. Lions sleep tonight.

Mouse

Bold was he, as I sat at my desk. Right up to my foot he walked, seemingly oblivious. I had to tap my foot to get his attention or I think he would have climbed right onto my slipper. That would have been ok but I thought to spare us any ensuing chaos.

He retreated with no special haste into the foyer. I followed and sat down on the floor to introduce myself. He seemed to have almost no fear.

Towards the end of our conversation, after praising his courage, I informed him that he’d need to get into a box that I would provide, that I would be putting him outside, that in a perfect world I would gladly allow him to make himself at home but that this world was not so constructed. I went to get the box.

When I got back he had hidden under the radiator. I asked him to come out and get in the box. He demurred. Gently with a piece of paper I coaxed him from under the radiator, hoping he’d see the box as safety. Alas. He saw my office as safety, in the corner by the bookcase. Little did he know that he may as well as climbed into the box. I took another piece of paper and made, as it were, a three sided box canyon and then placed the actual box on the fourth side. Then, just as in those movies where the protagonists are caught in a room where one of the walls is slowly moving toward its opposite, so that they will clearly be crushed, I moved the paper wall slowly.

Being a smart mouse he read the situation perfectly and ran into the box. Not as smart as a vole, I daresay, who would have seen that the paper wall was no wall at all, but I was not giving off a very predatory vibe and maybe he was just rolling with it.

I gave him one more talking to, about where he would be going (under the barn), about expectations, about what he should tell his friends and family. I underlined that I had nothing but the strongest positive wishes him and his. This was in April of the year 2020.

Another Rescue

This is a tiny tale. Once upon a time there was a butter knife with a plastic handle. Here is a picture of some of its siblings. Meriden Cutlery Company of Connecticut. Theirs was one of the first commercially successful plastic handles.

Comes a time for everything though. The blade design and execution are nearly perfect, in my opinion, for how a spreading knife should handle. When the handle on one of the ones in my kitchen disintegrated I set the blade aside. Of course, as they are wont to do, though I do not know who authorized it and I am not convinced of their much vaunted regularity, years passed.

Behold a small victory

The new handle has very poor ergonomic characteristics. The wood is sapwood of a California live oak. I’ve never re-handled a knife before, that much was fun. It saddens me that so many things that people once did will almost never be done again, that the skills and knowledge of how to take care of things are fading, as a percent of the population, that things being cheap and disposable has pretty much come to rule the world. Nonetheless, poor ergonomics or not, this is, as I said, a small victory. Butter, peanut butter, preserves, all these now call forth this excellent tool. Wood was used, metal and craftsmanship conserved, yet no Jabberwocks were slain in the rehabilitation of this artifact.

Further Tales of the War Spoon

There are so many questions you may ask. The original, the Progenitor, is woken! It is not known if he visited R’lyeh in his mute and broken time. The wise will form their own opinions.

It so happened that the war spoon faithfully say upon my desk. It would assist in scratching my back when called but otherwise abide in quiet readiness. It was unfortunate that the cleaning ladies did not accord him sufficient recognition. Thrice they accidentally cast him to the stone floor, perhaps more than that, but at least thrice was his beak broken.

The first two times ordinary repairs were undertaken. Considerable thoughtfulness was exercised in terms of grain orientation (for strength). Mahogany dust was mixed with the glue to give right color. The third time, however, insufficient thoughtfulness ruled the day. I’d carved a rough new beak and glued it well. By rough I mean that it was not fully shaped. The shaping I’d do after the glue had set. For some reason, however, I decided to use the tool of terror (there should be special music for this).

Aptly named, the tool of terror not only tore off the unformed beak but also broke the neck of the Progenitor. In two. Decapitated. Much worse than anything that might happen in the chair of a dentist. The corpse of Ted Williams twitched. For many moons did things so remain.

We can rebuild him! Better, stronger, faster … bionic spoon!

Pieces of orange osage were cut and approximately fitted. Ridiculous ingenuity was applied in the gluing the second bond in the neck.

The beak was carefully set

Careful shaping followed.

and once again, perhaps even better than ever, the Progenitor quietly abides. His current beak and the additional neck length have improved his back scratching ability. What a long journey even the simplest of continuities can be.

Box 19

discovered, had been thought to be unfinished, but after perhaps 5 years of quiet rest and self-contemplation decided that indeed, it was what is was, it is what it is, and that by itself it is complete, though lidless, complete, though imperfect, and actually neater than many boxes ever might be.

This probably should have been somewhere around Box 8, if a proper timeline gave the number of the box. Maybe it’s more like a box recognition number. It shows primitive but effective finger jointing at the corner. It features red eucalyptus cut from a great block. Has the standard 3/8 cedar floor. Is holding a nice piece of tiger iron.

No special remarks. It’s a rough piece conceived with ambitions but never gussied. Dignity and utility are likely simple things.

The Orb

This is one of those things.

When I was a young warthog – I should say when I was a child. The next door neighbors of my grandparents had a blue mirror ball on a pedestal. It seemed pretty magical to me, the way it captured everything, included me, changed the color – very far from an ordinary thing. Thus it seemed fitting to incarnate here in my world as I approach the age they must have been when I was little. Therefore, to eBay, where orbs built like giant glass Christmas ornaments, short neck and all, were not pricey at all.

For a pedestal I decided to take advantage of a trove of beams I’d recently acquired. What you see above this the bottom up view, the feet for stability.

The tool of terror must also have its moment of recognition. It’s not the angle grinder so much as the particular wheel, the absence of a guard, the fact that the on switch locks in place, and the such tools like to catch and buck. Every time I use it I question myself.

Nonetheless it is a very effective tool

I used drill and chisel to make a place for the neck of the orb.

Clearly a case of lo and behold

See how gracefully it portends Spring

(Twice) Repaired Milking Stool

In my workshop for years there was a novel three legged stool that I’d picked up at the dump. I call it novel because the leg braces were quite clever. Where they adhered to the legs they had a vertical orientation and where they joined to each other they had a horizontal orientation. I’d tried to fashion similar braces as some sort of homage, with the intent of making a copy, but that was a little above my skill level back then, maybe still is.

I used it one day to stand on while trying to get a rope saw thrown over some high branch. This was beyond the service capacity. Result below.

The pieces were saved, probably fallow for four years.

Repair me

While normally I never use metal in woodwork, here I sank screws through the legs into the braces.

The dowels that had connected legs to seat were half inch. I replaced with 5/8 oak, hoping to gain a little strength.

All in all a most satisfactory exercise, a clearly useful outcome. So useful in fact, that I must add this little post-script.

We know that it is stated that virtue is its own reward. As a reward for this virtuous repair I got to use the stool. One thing I used it for was to hold up a 20 foot oak 6×6 that I was cutting at the twelve foot mark. When the eight foot piece came off the weight on the remaining 12 shifted in such a manner that the little milking stool was again sorely taxed. The leg assembly testified beautifully, as did its adherence to seat. It was the seat itself that broke in half.

I quickly harvested this opportunity to repair the seat. All is well in this corner of Mudsville,