bookmark_borderSmall Boxes from Surplus Wood

I picked up some small-ish thin pieces of mystery tropical wood from a friend, and I had a pile of surplus from the Storage Trays for Tama project, so I decided to make some small lidded boxes to give away. I started this back last fall, but they sat in the garage waiting for another slice of time I could devote to completing them. The largest of these has an 8″ by 8″ lid on a 5″ tall body, so they are mostly too small for storage but a great size for gifts.

Three small lidded boxes from mystery wood

The mystery wood boxes are finished with salad bowl oil finish, so you could use them as bento boxes, but since I can’t guarantee that they are water-tight or that the wood is not poisonous, I would not recommend it. This wood is only about quarter-inch thick, so the proportions are attractive. I decided how to use the pieces by stacking up all the wood by size and then moving down through the stack making lids and then boxes to match. All the cutting was on the band saw, then glued and pinned together. Unless the pin deflects inside the wood and pokes out, this method is fast.

Three small lidded boxes from pine

These are all made from half-inch pine, and finished with a variety of shellac techniques that I wanted to try. I think my favorite one is the rightmost one in the photo. I started with a really dilute cut of light amber shellac to give the wood a little more color, then top-coated with a thin coat of blonde shellac.

Anyway, I already have plans to fill one of the boxes with braids and add it to a gift basket that our SCA Kingdom is putting together for another Kingdom. In any case, the pile of surplus wood is a little bit smaller than it was, so success.

bookmark_borderNew Camera

After giving up on Canon four years ago, I have mostly made do with my phone’s camera for travel snapshots and project images. While the camera on my phone is reasonably capable, it lacks a few modes I used to rely on, and the shallow optical range makes it pretty bad at macro photography. I need to be able to capture high-quality pictures of braid structures, so this was becoming a problem. Searching around for compact cameras that take good macro photos, I found the Olympus OM System TG-7. I wound up finding a package deal on NewEgg that included a bunch of off-brand accessories like filters and lenses, so I didn’t even have to go into a store to buy it.

The front of the TG-7
The back of the TG-7

Look: buttons, knobs, and switches! Look: metal body for durability! Look: a real lens and a way to attach accessory lenses! Look: a way to attach a beefy wrist strap! It has built-in Bluetooth and WiFi so that I can transfer images to my phone and thence to the world without wires! It can charge over USB-C, so I don’t need more than one charging cable!

My image tests have been very pleasing so far, and the macro lenses I bought enable you to zoom in really close. It’s easy to switch modes and change settings. I can record video with it. The phone app also works as a remote monitor and shutter activator. Of course, the photos above were taken with my phone camera. Anyway, it has been a few years since I bought a new camera and I am having fun playing with the new toy.

bookmark_borderJune 21, 2024

Hey, do you remember that movie from 1999 where the characters are in a simulation and they don’t realize it? No, not that one. That one’s The Matrix. I mean the other one. No, not that one. That’s eXistenZ. I mean the other other one. I’m talking about The Thirteenth Floor.

Now, at the end of the movie there’s a newspaper on the kitchen counter, and OK, so you’re releasing your movie in 1999 you probably wouldn’t be able to predict that newspapers will be mostly dead, but you should be able to “predict” that June 21st would not be a Monday.

June 21st was a Monday in 1999, or maybe it’s a clue that… nah.

bookmark_borderAn Archery Stool for Urho

A friend of mine wanted a sturdy stool for shooting archery while seated. Another friend of mine gifted me with some surplus curly maple. I wanted to have fun making another stool, but I don’t really need more seating in the house. I love it when a plan comes together.

I glued up three pieces of the maple. then cut the round top on a band saw using my circle jig. Then, I cut the round through-mortises using a forstner bit.

From the remaining maple, I cut three legs using the band saw, then sawed off the corners to make octagonal legs. I roughed out the tenons on the band saw, then rounded them down by hand with a microplane rasp.

I rounded over the edges of the seat with a router, then all four pieces went through several stages of sanding. Once assembled, I wedged the legs in place. Then, I trimmed off the tops of the tenons using a ryoba hand saw. More sanding, then a few coats of General Finishes “Salad Bowl” finish which I wanted to try out.

21 inch tall 3-legged stool from maple
Look at that curly grain. Sweet.

bookmark_borderPublication Notice

I had a short article published in the June 2024 Braid Society Newsletter! Unfortunately, you can only access the newsletter if you are a member of the Braid Society, but you can view my submitted draft of the article, “A Braid to Make: Double-Rai Gumi“, on my web site.

I’m very honored to included in the newsletter, and it also serves as promotion for my class at Braids 2025 in Cleveland. Additionally, it is a non-technical addition to my writing portfolio, which I think is cool.

bookmark_borderThey Might Be Awesome

We actually went out to a real show in a real theater this week, basically the first time in forever. We went to see They Might Be Giants at Mr. Smalls on Thursday at the first of their three (3!) Pittsburgh shows at the beginning of their “Midwest” tour.

It was a great time. The crowd was enthusiastic and the overall mood was friendly and happy. The band was high energy, and they were clearly having fun. At one point, John F. gave away a copy of Book to a person right in front of the stage, and the crowd reaction was so wonderful, like we were all friends happy to see one friend give another friend a gift.

They played a number of tracks from Apollo 18, which brought me joy and made me feel very much at home. Considering that many in the crowd have been listening to that album for their entire life, it was welcomed by all.

Thank you John, John, Marty, and the rest of the Band for continuing to be awesome. Thank you also to friends Heather and Gwen for joining us.

bookmark_borderCoronation Largesse

I did my normal thing and made some belt favors and medallion cords for the Kingdom to celebrate the Coronation of Murdoch and Rioghnach. Twelve belt favors for some of the Kingdom awards, and six 8-strand braids for whatever they want. These will all go in the Barony’s gift basket to the Kingdom. Since the Coronation is today, I can talk about it.

bookmark_borderYou Are Too Sober for this Book Review

Having just come out in 2022 with a me-lauded new entry in the “John Dies at the End” series, Jason “David Wong” Pargin followed up in 2023 with a new “Zoey Ashe” novel titled Zoey is too Drunk for this Dystopia. I continue to believe that Pargin continues to make himself a better and better writer. I don’t know, maybe he just has better editors, but he knows enough to work with them to make better and better books, so good enough.

Anyway, in the first book of this series, protagonist Zoey Ashe inherits a vast fortune and shady business empire from her father. This inheritance comes with a group of her father’s helpers who are known collectively as “The Suits”. Now, Zoey is not stupid, and she is far from helpless, but she is way out of her depth in the first book, and knows it. The Suits do most of the heavy lifting, and Zoey mostly struggles to keep up while trying to direct the business onto a more noble path.

In this book, the fourth in the series, Zoey is really coming into her own. She is making the plans, and doing some of the heavy lifting. When helpers get sidelined, she knows that the rest of the team is looking to her to pick up the slack and recruit substitutes. She’s going from being the shocked owner of this thing, to being the real boss of this thing. Zoey still makes some mistakes, and some horrible decisions that turn out OK anyway, but she’s getting there, and she never forgets about her family, her cats, and her desire to make the world a slightly better place now that she has the resources to do so.

As a writer, Pargin has learned to subvert the reader’s expectations. It’s not that he’s trying to surprise you, but he’s trying to make you think about people. In the Zoey Ashe novels, protagonists aren’t always good, villains aren’t always bad, and red herrings sometimes turn out to be clues. The gun on the mantel in act 1 might be revealed in act 2 to display a flag that says “BANG!”, then in act 3 the flag is waved to summon help from a Thai sea pirate. You just ever know, but he’s urging you to look. Maybe the villain is really ridiculous and more naive than you. Maybe the protagonist has to do one awful thing to make sure another awful thing doesn’t happen. He’s urging you to look inside the suit and see the real person.

Later this year, Pargin is releasing yet another novel, and I think it is set in yet another series. I applaud whenever an author decides to branch out, but I hope this isn’t the last we read about Zoey. Both Pargin and his creations are still on their way to becoming real heroes, and I want to see what they are like when they get there.

bookmark_borderBamboo Satchel

More than ten years ago, I made a couple of small “boxes” (box1 box2) by wrapping bamboo sushi rolling mats around blocks of wood. Those two little boxes are still in use, and still going strong, so when I saw the RÖDEBY bamboo “armrest tray”, I knew just what I wanted to do.

The Roedeby comprises thirty bamboo slats that are bonded to a flexible canvas backer. I cut two 7.5 inch disks from pine board, and combined it with some hardware to make this satchel-

Bamboo Satchel

The bamboo is both glued and nailed to the pine disks, so it should be pretty sturdy. I attached the sling cord by drilling through the disks and then inserting the ends of the rope and tying stopper knots inside. the “latch” is a couple of brass cotter pins that are secured to the inner layer of bamboo and project through a couple of holes drilled in the outer layer of bamboo. In the above photo, the latch is secured with a small brass “lock” that I acquired at Pennsic a couple of years ago. Here it is open-

Bamboo Satchel Open, with Sake for Scale

You can see that there is quite a lot of space inside. I haven’t tried stuffing it, but I bet you could actually get 3 full-size bottles in there. It should be big enough for a small selection of tools, or a big lunch. I didn’t base it on anything I’ve seen anywhere, so I wouldn’t call it a medieval or Japanese woodworking project, but it’s a handy object that won’t be too disruptive if I carry it to an SCA event.

bookmark_border3 Odd Braids in Silk

At the Braids 2025 conference in Cleveland, I am scheduled to teach a class on three braids for the marudai that use an odd number of elements. I realized that while I had a bunch of sample braids for those three, but none that I would consider to be “show quality”. They are mostly done in cotton or fuzzy yarn, and some of them have been attached to garments or other projects. to be “show braids”, they really should be done in silk thread and should be at least a couple of feet long. We still had plenty of reeled silk from the Georgia Yarn Company, so I decided to get busy braiding.

9-Strand “Shigeuchi Gumi” (30 inches)
17-Strand “Taka on Maru” Braid (32 inches)
15-Strand “Sankaku Gumi” (26 inches)

I braided each of these with about 16 ends of silk thread per tama. I say “about” because the lavender thread is ever so slightly thicker than the other colors. To get the 17-Strand braid relatively even, I had to go down to 12 ends of lavender pr tama. I had to work out the right patterns for each braid that would keep the colors together through the braid. That was somewhat tricky, but I now have a Jacqui Carey-style coloring grid for the 17-strand braid, which will be super handy in the future.

If any of these three braids interest you, please consider coming to the conference and signing up for my class! I am scheduled against some big names in braiding, so I would really appreciate support from the marudai braiding community.