Saturday, March 14, 2020

hanging tough, mid march

Whenever I'm in a complex public situation, like the DMV, or the airport, or the pre-thanksgiving grocery store craze, I resort to a lyric of a song from the bluegrass group, Old Crow Medicine Show: "we're all in this together". It's an aphorism that must have started when civilization did. In my mind, it may be the essence of why the golden rule exists in the first place.

This is Friday, March 13th. It is the first day that our laboratory has asked all non-wetlab personnel to stay home and work from there to reduce the virus exposure. For me, I've felt like having cantilevered backwards, weightless, over some giant space of unknown. The main draw I have to this company is the teamwork, and how much I adore my team mates, and working with them closely. But if my staying home and off public transit reduces risk to the production lab, so be it. I will do what i can from my home console.

I live in Oakland, CA, USA, where patchy clouds and fog would break before noon. Jasmine has it's first big expression of flowers this time of year, and the back trellis is heaving with the buds in various states of bloom. The scent escapes words in the still air of morning.

The cats love to draw out into the back yard after their morning feeding. They tentatively step onto the deck, smell the air, and move out. Here, Tux is with his haunches low in a very cautious stance, I think because a neighbor's tom has beat him up a bit over the last few months (no signs of him today).
Paulo, the fluffier one, is the big brother. He's actually been pretty good about sticking together with Tux and protecting him.
The apple tree out back, which had been here before we moved in, is still productive. I pruned it in January, and it's now sprouting some growth buds. While talking to my dad in the morning, he said that he and mom developed a pruning system to maximize southern light exposure to the canopy. This tree naturally leans south, but my pruning method had never taken into consideration the orientation of our latitude to the sun. The farm where I grew up on, and where he still lives, is at 48deg latitude, and more critical to southern exposure than here. But still, it maximizes sun exposure. Dad made satellites for a living and understands much more intrinsically about how we are just specks, a thin film coating a spinning rock, orbiting one of uncountable suns. maybe next year I'll work on that pruning technique.

For practicality's sake, I return to my own hands to guide the way when my head is unsure where to go next. These hands tend to the practice of making stuff, and i think they especially favor sloyd craft.

My dear cycling friend, Takumi, was able to bring his two daughters, Mia and Isa by as school was closed. They have nascent interest in carving spoons from a video I forwarded to Takumi of peter galbert reviewing his techniques and why he does this. They were curious where one might be able to begin with this sort of craft.

Today, we are using soft pine as an introductory wood for carving. It's softer than other woods, but that makes it more accessible. With a coat of bee's wax, i think they will be OK for just general use as eating spoons. Soups and oatmeal and so-forth.

I'm trying to come up with the simplest spoon carving system possible. no band saws. no big iron vices. work-holding that is improvised and accessible. a shave horse or spoon mule appliance would be great, but it's still a bit more work than what i want to accomplish here, which is to inspire some creative, lateral thinking. yeah, the appliances can help you make things more efficiently, for sure! but today, with all that we are worrying about and underlying stressors, maybe slowing it down a bit and just taking smaller bites out of the wood at a time is the best recipe. can you relate?

We practiced 3 different knife strokes today. two are used around the neck of the bowl as it transitions to the handle. you have to carefully pare towards you and away from you in a controlled fashion. there are ways to do this safely as long as you abide by a few basic rules. the main one being, no part of you should be down wind of where that blade is going.

Here's Isa, working on the spoon. We only practiced on one spoon today, but the idea is that they all will make their own spoons.

And now here's Mia taking a turn. This was the week of March 14th (3.14). the kids celebrate Pi the entire week, and Mia is wearing a Henna inscription on her hand in observance. pretty cool i think (-:
And now, Dad
I'm working on some low-end work holding ideas so that there's lateral support of the piece for hogging out the bowl. I think maybe just a few wedges, tapped in with a mallet, could suffice.


  1. Thanks, we all need normality at this time, social contact is part of it as is teaching. Good on you.


  2. Thank you Ken. I always love to read your updates on the OK Guy blog. Let's keep it strong, and do what we can!