Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minor excitement this morning at the Currie household...

My wife tells it best in an email she wrote to family about 10 minutes after "extraction". Tool-related point: I first tried cutting the aluminum needle (twice) with my brand new Rebar carbide-equipped plier head. It hardly made a dent in it so I switched to a Dremel and a parting disk. Had to stop briefly to allow the needle to cool. ================ "As I backed into my swivel chair to start my morning devotions, I stepped on to a knitting needle in my knitting bag. The photos show the rest. Neill had to first cut the needle and his best pliar tools could not do it so he used a dremel drill. Then he was able to pull the needle out. My fear was much greater than the pain. Then he got me all bandaged up. The needle went in at the arch and came out at the side of my heel. There was hardly any blood. It's throbbing a bit now. All I can say is thank goodness for Neill." ================

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alcohol stove, my latest iteration

After a long period with a very bad back, I needed something to perfect. Here's what I came up with after a few months, and lots of aluminum shavings on the floor. Weighs very, very little. Brings 2 cups of water to a boil in 5 mins, can also be regulated so it'll simmer or bake. There's an optional heat exchanger (a perforated piece of a cigar tube) that'll increase output at the cost of reduced efficiency, and knock about 30 secs off of the boil time. The coke can slice slides up/down to regulate the burn accurately. The top cap cuts the flame from the center, forces it out the sides, and diffuses the flame, making it better for frying/baking. The three pot support legs unscrew and slide into the hollow handle for storage, however, everything assembled will slide into a camping mug. The bottom is double layer with an air gap so it'll work well in lower temperatures, and there's also a primer base for when it get really cold. Burns yellow Heat or Denatured Alcohol. When this sucker is running on high, a stainless steel spoke put into the center of the flame folds in the heat after about 20 secs !! Thankfully, the flame path takes the heat away from the aluminum parts well enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gerber MP600

This is a Gerber MP600 that I just traded on for a SOG Paratool. I actually have/had two of these, each with slightly different blade/tool configurations, part of the whimsy of Gerber I guess. IIRC they were the first multitool Gerber produced that had truly locking tools, and it must have been one of the first multi's ever that incorporated a blade coupler. This one is obviously in excellent condition. I don't remember ever using it "seriously", but I may have sharpened a pencil with the blade to check sharpness ;-) Good multi's never die, they just move on to a new home.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

In praise of peening...

I recently got a Leatherman PST in trade. It needed some TLC. I decided to pull it apart, attend to any mechanical issues, and buff it all nice and shiny again. The screwed pivots suffered some wear/damage, as I don't have the correct tools for disassembly so I bought a length of 3/16" Brass from the local hardware store and peened all the joints. I have to say that careful peening with accurately sized stock in decently sized holes leads to a wonderful feeling. There's zero play or wiggle throughout the entire tool, and it's possible to dial in just the perfect amount of friction for closing and opening. It's a feeling of precision and quality that is just slightly above even what one experiences from even a new Leatherman, from one with conventional fasteners that is. Of course, one can further tighten the peened joints at some point in the future (if ever needed). Drill out a joint, to replace a tool, just like with a SAK. There's a slight decrease in section with a peened Leatherman as the rivets stick out less than threaded fasteners, and this aids pocketability a bit as it slips in or out of a pocket freer than with the relatively snaggly stock fasteners. The PST also looks cool with the peened Brass heads :) All in all, I am very pleased with the operation.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Orwell and Jura

Just loved this recent photo essay about Orwell and the island of Jura. In 1971 with three friends, I backpacked around the coast of Jura. Sleeping in caves that were more often the refuge of deer, and walking on paths that were carved out of the gorse by deer, it took us 5 days to circumnavigate the island, and in that whole time we didn't see another human soul, not even a footprint.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Just a great article in the NYT from Tim Kreider. I too am a cat-man. There's no shame in admitting it.

A Man and His Cat By TIM KREIDER AUGUST 1, 2014 6:33 PMAugust 3, 2014 9:11 pm 576 Comments Menagerie Menagerie: Just between us species. E-MAIL FACEBOOK TWITTER SAVE MORE Photo Credit Lisa Hanawalt I LIVED with the same cat for 19 years — by far the longest relationship of my adult life. Under common law, this cat was my wife. I fell asleep at night with the warm, pleasant weight of the cat on my chest. The first thing I saw on most mornings was the foreshortened paw of the cat retreating slowly from my face and her baleful crescent glare informing me that it was Cat Food Time. As I often told her, in a mellow, resonant, Barry White voice: “There is no luuve … like the luuve that exists … between a man … and his cat.” ‘You’re in love with that cat!’ my then-girlfriend Margot once accused me. To be fair, she was a very attractive cat. The cat was jealous of my attention; she liked to sit on whatever I was reading, walked back and forth and back and forth in front of my laptop’s screen while I worked, and unsubtly interpolated herself between me and any woman I may have had over. She and my ex Kati Jo, who was temperamentally not dissimilar to the cat, instantly sized each other up as enemies. When I was physically intimate with a woman, the cat did not discreetly absent herself but sat on the edge of the bed with her back to me, facing rather pointedly away from the scene of debauch, quietly exuding disapproval, like your grandmother’s ghost. I realize that people who talk at length about their pets are tedious at best, and often pitiful or repulsive. They post photos of their pets online, tell little stories about them, speak to them in disturbing falsettos, dress them in elaborate costumes and carry them around in handbags and BabyBjorns, have professional portraits taken of them and retouched to look like old master oil paintings. When people over the age of 10 invite you to a cat birthday party or a funeral for a dog, you need to execute a very deft etiquette maneuver, the equivalent of an Immelmann turn or triple axel, in order to decline without acknowledging that they are, in this area, insane. This is especially true of childless people, like me, who tend to become emotionally overinvested in their animals and to dote on them in a way that gives onlookers the creeps. Often the pet seems to be a surrogate child, a desperate focus or joint project for a relationship that’s lost any other raison d’ĂȘtre, like becoming insufferable foodies or getting heavily into cosplay. When such couples finally have a child their cats or dogs are often bewildered to find themselves unceremoniously demoted to the status of pet; instead of licking the dinner plates clean and piling into bed with Mommy and Daddy, they’re given bowls of actual dog food and tied to a metal stake in a circle of dirt. OP-TALK Confessions of a Cat Guy The author spoke with Op-Talk about people and their pets, and his relationship with the cat who inhabited his life and home for 19 years. I looked up how much Americans spend on pets annually and have concluded that you do not want to know. I could tell you what I spent on my own cat’s special kidney health cat food and kidney and thyroid medication, and periodic blood tests that cost $300 and always came back normal, but I never calculated my own annual spending, lest I be forced to confront some uncomfortable facts about me. What our mass spending on products to pamper animals who seem happiest while rolling in feces or eating the guts out of rodents — who don’t, in fact, seem significantly less happy if they lose half their limbs — tells us about ourselves as a nation is probably also something we don’t want to know. But it occurs to me that it may be symptomatic of the same chronic deprivation as are the billion-dollar industries in romance novels and porn. I’ve speculated that people have a certain reservoir of affection that they need to express, and in the absence of any more appropriate object — a child or a lover, a parent or a friend — they will lavish that same devotion on a pug or a Manx or a cockatiel, even on something neurologically incapable of reciprocating that emotion, like a monitor lizard or a day trader or an aloe plant. Konrad Lorenz confirms this suspicion in his book “On Aggression,” in which he describes how, in the absence of the appropriate triggering stimulus for an instinct, the threshold of stimulus for that instinct is gradually lowered; for instance, a male dove deprived of female doves will attempt to initiate mating with a stuffed pigeon, a rolled-up cloth or any vaguely bird-shaped object, and, eventually, with an empty corner of its cage. Although I can clearly see this syndrome as pathological in others, I was its medical textbook illustration, the Elephant Man of the condition. I did not post photographs of my cat online or talk about her to people who couldn’t be expected to care, but at home, alone with the cat, I behaved like some sort of deranged arch-fop. I made up dozens of nonsensical names for the cat over the years — The Quetzal, Quetzal Marie, Mrs. Quetzal Marie the Cat, The Inquetzulous Q’ang Marie. There was a litany I recited aloud to her every morning, a sort of daily exhortation that began, “Who knows, Miss Cat, what fantastical adventures the two of us will have today?” I had a song I sang to her when I was about to vacuum, a brassy Vegas showstopper called “That Thing You Hate (Is Happening Again).” We collaborated on my foot-pedal pump organ to produce The Hideous Cat Music, in which she walked back and forth at her discretion on the keyboard while I worked the pedals. The Hideous Cat Music resembled the work of the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, with aleatory passages and unnervingly sustained tone clusters. Biologists call cats ‘exploitive captives,’ an evocative phrase that might be used to describe a lot of relationships, not all of them interspecies. I never meant to become this person. My own cat turned up as a stray at my cabin on the Chesapeake Bay when I was sitting out on the deck eating leftover crabs. She was only a couple of months old then, small enough that my friend Kevin could fit her whole head in his mouth. She appeared from underneath the porch, piteously mewling, and I gave her some cold white crab meat. I did not know then that feeding a stray cat is effectively adopting that cat. For a few weeks I was in denial about having a cat. My life at that time was not structured to accommodate the responsibility of returning home once every 24 hours to feed an animal. I posted fliers in the post office and grocery store with a drawing of the cat, hoping its owner would reclaim it. It seems significant in retrospect that I never entertained the possibility of taking the cat to the pound. When I left for a long weekend for a wedding in another state, my friend Gabe explained to me that the cat clearly belonged to me now. I protested. This was a strictly temporary situation until I could locate a new home for the cat, I explained. I was not going to turn into some Cat Guy. “How would you feel,” he asked me, “if you were to get home from this weekend and that cat was gone?” I moaned and writhed in the passenger seat. “You’re Cat Guy,” he said in disgust. Photo Credit Lisa Hanawalt It’s amusing now to remember the strict limits I’d originally intended to place on the cat. One of the boundaries I meant to set was that the cat would not be allowed upstairs, where I slept. That edict was short-lived. It was not long before I became wounded when the cat declined to sleep with me. “You’re in love with that cat!” my then-girlfriend Margot once accused me. To be fair, she was a very attractive cat. People would comment on it. My friend Ken described her as “a supermodel cat,” with green eyes dramatically outlined in what he called “cat mascara” and bright pink “nose leather.” Her fur, even at age 19, was rich and soft and pleasant to touch. Biologists call cats “exploitive captives,” an evocative phrase that might be used to describe a lot of relationships, not all of them interspecies. I made the mistake, early on, of feeding the cat first thing in the morning, forgetting that the cat could control when I woke up — by meowing politely, sitting on my chest and staring at me, nudging me insistently with her face, or placing a single claw on my lip. She refused to drink water from a bowl, coveting what she believed was the superior-quality water I drank from a glass. I attempted to demonstrate to the cat that the water we drank was the very same water by pouring it from my glass into her bowl right in front of her, but she was utterly unmoved, like a birther being shown Obama’s long-form Hawaiian birth certificate. In the end I gave in and began serving her water in a glass tumbler, which she had to stick her whole face into to drink from. Sometimes it would strike me that an animal was living in my house, and it seemed as surreal as if I had a raccoon or a kinkajou running loose in my house. Yet that animal and I learned, on some level, to understand each other. Although I loved to bury my nose in her fur when she came in from a winter day and inhale deeply of the Coldcat Smell, the cat did not like this one bit, and fled. For a while I would chase her around the house, yelling, “Gimme a little whiff!” and she would hide behind the couch from my hateful touch. Eventually I realized that this was wrong of me. I would instead let her in and pretend to have no interest whatsoever in smelling her, and, after not more than a minute or so the cat would approach me and deign to be smelled. I should really be no less impressed by this accord than if I’d successfully communicated with a Papuan tribesman, or decoded a message from the stars. WHENEVER I felt embarrassed about factoring a house pet’s desires into major life decisions, some grown-up-sounding part of me told myself, it’s just a cat. It’s generally believed that animals lack what we call consciousness, although we can’t quite agree on what exactly this is, and how we can pretend to any certainty about what goes on in an animal’s head has never been made clear to me. To anyone who has spent time with an animal, the notion that they have no interior lives seems so counterintuitive, such an obdurate denial of the empathetically self-evident, as to be almost psychotic. I suspect that some of those same psychological mechanisms must have allowed people to rationalize owning other people. RELATED More From Menagerie Read previous contributions to this series. Another part of me, perhaps more sentimental but also more truthful, had to acknowledge that the cat was undeniably another being in the world, experiencing her one chance at being alive, as I was. It always amused me to hit or elongate the word “you” in speaking to the cat, as in, “Yooouu would probably like that!” because it was funny — and funny often means disquieting and true — to remind myself that there really was another ego in the room with me, with her own likes and dislikes and idiosyncrasies and exasperatingly wrongheaded notions about whose water is better. It did not seem to me like an insoluble epistemological mystery to divine what the cat would like when I woke up and saw her face two inches from mine and the Tentative Paw slowly withdrawing from my lip. I admit that loving a cat is a lot less complicated than loving a human being. Because animals can’t ruin our fantasies about them by talking, they’re even more helplessly susceptible to our projections than other humans. Though of course there’s a good deal of naked projection and self-delusion involved in loving other human beings, too. I once read in a book about feng shui that keeping a pet can maintain the chi of your house or apartment when you’re not there; the very presence of an animal enlivens and charges the space. Although I suspect feng shui is high-end hooey, I learned when my cat was temporarily put up elsewhere that a house without a cat in it feels very different from a house with one. It feels truly empty, dead. Those moments gave me some foreboding of how my life would feel after she was gone. We don’t know what goes on inside an animal’s head; we may doubt whether they have anything we’d call consciousness, and we can’t know how much they understand or what their emotions feel like. I will never know what, if anything, the cat thought of me. But I can tell you this: A man who is in a room with a cat — whatever else we might say about that man — is not alone.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

EDC Victorinox...

Like a lot of people who enjoy Swiss Army Knives, I have an ongoing quest to compact as many useful tools (for me) into the smallest, lightest space possible. Often this involves rolling your own from off-the-shelf parts, then modifying them and assembling them into the "perfect" package. Perfection has a habit of shifting under one's feet as time goes on, so this is my latest attempt at perfection. The scales are made from aluminum plate about 3/32 inch thick. All riveting is with 2.2 and 2.5mm diameter brass. No keyring attachment. Most knife components are from 91mm Victorinox models. Opener/screwdriver layer: A new-version Philips driver ground down to the thickness of the Vic cap lifter. The cap lifter has had the cut-out modified so it will open both bottles and cans, and is aided in the latter by grinding a sharp edge at roughly 45 degrees along the can-cutting edge. It'll still work as a large screwdriver blade too, and retains the "wire-bending, cable-stripping notch. Scissors layer: stock 91mm Vic scissors. All I did to them was grind the end of the center screw flat, so they's slip into the scales with minimum width. Saw and Metal file layer: 91mm Vic parts again. The only non-standard issue here is they are running with no liner between them for maximum thinness. There is a 5 thou thick brass washer between them. Blade layer: a 91mm Vic main blade with the thick tang, and a 84mm nailfile (from a cadet). They both ride on a backspring that has been ground to fit and tweaked slightly, as has the spacer. I had to carve a nail-nick relief for the nailfile. As you may know, the nailfile point also does a decent job on #1 Phips screws. Backtools: a modern Vic 91mm awl with sewing eye, and a corkscrew. I intend to add the mini eyeglass screwdriver to the corkscrew. A number of backsprings were mixed and matched, and sometimes tweaked, from various sources. So, after construction, the thickness of this 5-layer knife is about 1 layer thinner than a 4 layer Explorer with Vic Scales. I can live without the toothpick and tweezers as I often have those in a small Vic on my keyring. All in all, a good marriage of tools, utility, and space.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wenger Can-Opener and #1 and #2 Phillips Combo Tool.

Ground the end of my Wenger can opener to 57 degrees, and took the thickness down till it just fits snugly into a #1 and #2 Phillips screw. Resembles the Vic Combo tool now doesn't it, and there is still plenty of can-piercing ability. The very end also fits regular flat screw heads that are a bit too small for the flat blade on the end of the bottle opener.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Old 50's

Reprofiled the main blade, hard to tell it's 1/4" shorter. Turned small blade into a flat Phillips. Got rid of saw. Used new 91mm scissors with old saw spring and custom brass spacer. Corkscrew is from a modern Wenger. Awl tip needed work to restore shape and straightness. Needed to reprofile the saw spring to work with scissors. Scales were a bugger to get off, some damage occurred. All pivots were 2.2mm through whole knife. Had to grind down toothpick and tweezers to fit the narrower than current slots.