Monday, August 29, 2022

A Week in the Stall

 A Week in the Stall


Monday 8/29

Just a cactus pic this morning. These guys are doing great. I'll get back to work on the rock in a little while. I got nothing at all done last week. There's a weird kind of rigidity that sets in post middle age. I told myself that since Mary would be gone for the week I'd spend the time getting domestic stuff done. That meant it was sort of against the rules to spend time on the rock. And suddenly it WAS against the rules, and I followed a rule that I didn't really set.
Mary got home yesterday. I got a decent night's sleep, the first in several days. The Skinamalink didn't come home last night, and he still hasn't shown up. Little poop is determined to drive me nuts. Ahhh. He just got in.

Thu. 8/25/22 
Mary has been enjoying the week at a time share resort out in Palm Desert, leaving me with the house all to myself. Like I mentioned last week, this always lights up the instinct to run like a dog off its leash, and go a little wild. At seventy years of age I should know better. I do, actually, but well...
 I wrote about last Sunday, the one night last week that I did decide to stay up late, eat a few gummies, and buzz out. The night ended up in a high stress searching frenzy for my missing cat, ending with a 4:00 am bedtime, and then no sleep anyway. Of course this was followed by a long dismal day with no ambition, and less energy. Altogether it was far less fun than I had intended to have.
Accomplishments for the week so far?
I got the kitchen floor scrubbed, even behind the stove. I got the bathtub scrubbed out. Did some dusting, and vacuumed the rug. I got the dead leaves raked out from under the backyard hedge. Tightened the chain on my bike.
I got a fair start on my "Artist's Statement" for the October show, too, but there's still a bunch of work, yet. I still gotta' look up a bunch of hard words, and vague metaphysical notions, then figure out a way to sneak them into a few key sentences about sawing on a rock. I hear "stochastic" is popular with the very smart folks these days. "dialectic" is always good for a nod. So are "hermeneutics", and "heuristic".  (I might even throw in anapestic, and trochaic, even though they came from an English class.)
 And I succeeded in not throwing a hand grenade, or firing an RPG at the ice cream truck stalled outside playing toy piano, "Sailing, Sailing" on endless loop.
At least so far.... 



Monday, August 22, 2022

Coming a Round

 Coming a Round


It's Monday morning and I'm bleary eyed and beat. I was up late last night. It was around 1:00am when I was about to turn in. Then I realized Buddy the Cat was missing. I called. Searched the house. Searched the yard. No cat. He almost never leaves the yard, and he's quick to come if I call. How did he get out? Where could he be? I'm having visions of my cat being taken by a coyote. I walked around the front. Took the bike out at 3:00am, riding around to the other side of the block. No Cat. I was so exhausted the I flopped on the couch a little after 4:00, Couldn't even doze. So I got up just in time to see that darned animal plod across the back patio, and saunter on up to the sliding door.
Huge rush of emotion.
So it was 4:30 bed time. And I didn't sleep 
Back to the boulder:

I went ahead with shaping the big, roughly octagonal block into a cylinder. I'm shaping the whole thing, even though I'm only going to use a slice of it for the ring. The ring is going sit about 3/4 of the way from the tail to the nose of the teardrop, and it should be about 2 1/2 inches wide. But all the layout work is drawn on the front face of the cylinder I created. That front face will soon be cut away, and then I'll be working freehand to get the figure shaped. It will be a challenge.
Wed, 8/17
The layout work is three dimensional drafting on oddly shaped uneven surfaces.  I have to define the figure by drawing lines before cutting stuff away. Just like masons of old I'm drafting it out with a level, square and compass. The lines have to be straight, the circles round, and the angles square. This isn't so hard to do on paper. It's a little trickier to do on a cube. It gets trickier yet as more material gets cut away from the block. Next up is to get the cylinder as close to round as I can. I'll just tease the edges closer and closer to the pencil line, then, re-draft the guide lines for the next cuts.   Too, the sides, and top are unreliable.  The front face on which the layout is drawn is nice and flat, but it leans out 1/4" from plumb. All the saw cuts have to eyeballed for straightness. There's no improvising, or getting all artsy creative with this kind of project. Everything has to be measured and squared against the center line under the base of the stone. I spent all day checking lines, angles, and measurements. Despite my best efforts, everything ends up almost perfect.  Now it's on to the serious cuts.
So here we are all rounded out with the first cuts taken from the cylinder. This will probably be  it for the week. I have a bike ride with the gang tomorrow. 


Sunday, Mary is going to go out to Palm Desert for a week at a time share resort. I'll be here with the cats. Funny. Getting the house to myself, a chance to play bachelor for a few days, used to be kind of fun. There's the old, old instinct to call all your buddies over for beer and weed, and pizza. Play the stereo loud, put a monster movie on video, and stay up late.
 I'm looking forward to take-out food, not doing dishes, doing a deep cleaning on the house. Maybe even mess with the yard. Get in touch with my inner custodian, or something. Joys of old age.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Toughin' it Out

 Toughin' it Out


Monday, 8/8
I've revised my opinion on this stone. Last week I mentioned that it was good firm material. No. It's hard as hell. It took me all day to get from here:

to here:


I was going to take another pic of the stone all surrounded by dust and scrap, but I was too dusty to pick up the camera. 
Tue. 8/9
These are all dead end cuts. The saw cuts 
easily enough when I can draw the blade all the way across the stone. As it is with these cuts, I have to start (or stop) in the middle of the material. It's slow going. Cut some, chisel some. I put in over five hours on it today, and there's still a long way to go.
Wed, 8/10
It's odd. I sit here at the desktop every day, and go through the bookmarks, checking news, and current events. I think about tinkling my two drops of opinion into the sea of pixels, but at most I leave off with a wise-ass comment on facebarf, or American Digest. I consider addressing serious topics here on the blog, whether it's current events, or the deep questions that become so real in the late stages of the game, but I don't. There is nothing I can write, or say that will change any of what is happening. Venting my anger feels like blowing smoke in a windstorm. Nobody really cares, and very few people come by here, right?
Blogs are a creature of the 1990's. The cool kidz don't even have computers. It's all on the phone.
Dumping your heart out into the aether, or telling your life story to the cloud may be therapeutic. Lord knows I've done it. Now I'm reticent.
Tossing out opinions invites conversations I don't care to have. Even worse, in this age and time there really is a Big Brother, and he really does watch.
It just feels creepy, anymore. Like leaving your private journal at a bus stop, or a park bench.

The big questions remain unanswered.  The world has gone insane; the nation has gone to hell. The culture utterly sucks. This free floating sense of dismay has become a permanent fog on my inner landscape.
Mary turned seventy four today. Next Wednesday I turn seventy.  
 Friday 8/12
Here is where I left off, and what I'll begin with this week. It's crappy hot, and the work is going slowly.

Monday 8/15 

The Bike club met Saturday for our monthly ride. Our friend Buddy Lee, from Sins and Sprockets came out with his son to cruise with us, but they were the only guests. We don't draw much attendance anymore. There are still rides going on throughout the Southland, but most of the events are revolving around custom bike shows, and bar hopping. We've got the stretch bikes, but our machines are riders, not showgirls. We've seen enough custom bike shows. We love to get high and cruise, but we're not drinkers, and hanging out in a bar is not our idea of fun. We've been riding as a group for over a decade, now, and we've become a small eccentric family. We keep our niche in the cruising culture, but we'd hang together and ride even if the whole thing faded away.
So that's it for the week. I have two more days before I'm officially seventy years old. I must relinquish any claim to being close to middle age. Post-middle age is a nice way of putting it, but calling a turd a rose doesn't make it smell nice.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Roughing it by Chisel and Saw.

 Roughing it by Chisel and Saw.

 The layout I drew on the stone last week was close, but only close. I had to scrub it all off, and start over a couple of times.  The piece I'm making is based on this very cool little doo-dad:

It's a Fender Bomb, a front fender ornament for a 1950's Schwinn/Whizzer motorized bicycle. Last year I stared this project with two different stones, a piece of gray steatite, and a piece of silver anhydrous alabaster. Both stones were too hard to work given the tools I have. This piece of pearly alabaster is going to be just about perfect for this project. The outside faces of the boulder are weathered, and chalky, but the stone beneath the surface is good and hard. 
I want to use the stone to its best advantage, and waste as little as I can. That means fitting the largest possible iteration of the figure into the confines of the stone that holds it. Even so, this figure will need a lot of excavation. There's a whole lot of rock to remove. (Old layout below)

This chunk is easy, as stones go. The two flat sides are fairly even, and roughly parallel, but the arching line across the top is very irregular. This is where it would be nice to work from a smooth, pre-cut cube instead of a boulder.  As it is, the two 'flat' sides of the stone aren't flat.The  diameter of the ring has to fit between the lowest depressions on either side of the rock. Finding, and measuring the low spot is tricky work with the steel square, and  the probe on the vernier caliper. Fortunately, this isn't machine shop, but time spent planning is saved in execution.
Fri. 8/5 
The task is to shave down the sides of the stone, and cut away scrap. The stone has a little translucence to it, and the scrap pieces all ring like glass when they drop. I can feel some tiny, hard inclusions in the rock as I saw.  Perhaps they'll show up as spots in the finished stone.
 This is good material; the rasps, and saw blades meet a lot of resistance. That makes precise cuts easy, but it's very slow work. 
Saw, saw, saw- 
 "Are we there yet?"
 Sometimes doing this feels all kinds of artistical, and creative, and stuff. Other days are like today- just slogging through a rock with a chisel and a bow saw. I have heard that there are  devices that combine saw blades with electric motors. It's an odd notion to be sure. Some say these devices speed up the work. Could be. But I won't put an electric motor on my bicycle, either. 
 (New layout)

Here is where I left off Friday afternoon, and where I'll begin this Monday. There is still a lot of material to cut away before I can begin shaping the ring. The top cut is right on the line, and both sides of the stone are shaved close enough to work as well. The next cut-aways will free up the two bottom corners of the circle, and then I can start with the material behind the ring in the back half of the piece.
Why patience is a virtue. Notice, in the next pic, the flake broken out on the middle line at the side, and another one near the right end corner. In both places I was just exploring- setting the chisel, and taking a tap to see if I had a good bite on the stone. Both blows knocked out much bigger chunks than I had intended. Never chisel near the edge of a cliff. You go over the edge, and work into the cliff face. In this case there is no harm done because the large flakes that dropped out are in areas that I'll be cutting away anyhow. Still, it's a reminder.
 Like Treebeard would say: "Mustn't be hasty."

And besides, it's already getting into the slow-motion days of mid August, and the season of heat. Working is a party of grit, dust, and sweat. But that's what makes it real. If I wanted to stay clean I could stay indoors, and build model kits.



Monday, August 1, 2022

Anza Borrego #4 Pearlstone

Anza Borrego #4 Pearlstone


 It's half past eight Tuesday night. I didn't put up a post Monday because I hadn't started a new stone. Last week I did a half assed job of cleaning the garage, then I trimmed the Chinese elm, and the Umbrella plant out front, and just cleaned up some small stuff around the house, and grounds.  Saturday the bike gang got together to check a possible new cruise. It wasn't so great. We ended up doing twenty miles of housing tracts and surface streets in the coastal flats just inland from Huntington. We did some riding on the Santa Ana River trail, and some through Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, but altogether too much on surface streets and sidewalks. I was up for a slow, easy park cruise, but not much more. The years are catching up to me, and the all day ride kicked my ass. I was flopped on the couch all day Sunday, too.


Wed. 7/27

I didn't plan on starting the new stone, Tuesday. It just sort of happened. We had a cool, cloudy morning, a welcome break at this time of year. I was sitting in the gazebo, enjoying a stale coffee, and a w&b with Buddy the Cat, and the Most Mysterious Skinamalink. The wheels started turning in my head. I crossed the yard, and started checking out the pearl stone. 


 The pearl stone? I'm not kiddin' that name just jumped straight from my sub conscious to the keyboard. So, The Pearl Stone, it is. Anyway, as you can see in the first picture, there's a streak of tan color running up and down the left side of the rock. I was thinking about sawing the base along that brown streak, and using the flat face that the stone sits on   for the front end of the figure. But then I re-considered. The stone is much more square than it looks. It's roughly 11" x 13", either way. I decided to just use the flat cut that was already there for the base.

But once I got the stone up on the table I saw the crack. It ran the full circumference of the stone, right above the brown streak. So I had to go back to the original plan, and make a base cut. I don't like this part. 

There are several ways of setting up a stone to make the base cut. Sometimes I've set up a jig to hold the stone, 'just-so'. Other times I've strapped the rock down to the table. This time, I took a chance on doing it freehand. I got the stone wedged up level on the board, and scribed a base line all around the circumference of the stone. (tricky) Sometimes you have to do sections. But the gods were with me on this one, and all the sections lined up, and connected like magic. Then I traced over the line with a hacksaw blade, then rolled the cut around the corners, going a little deeper with each pass. Then the bow saw. Round and round, until later on in the afternoon the cut went all the way through, and exactly twenty pounds of rock fell away.


 It took a few runs on the sanding board to finish the job. This part of the project usually takes two, or three days. I knocked it out in one. Groovy.



I'll be doing something different on this project. I know exactly what the finished piece is going to look like. I will have a really for real plan for this one, with measurements, and everything. This is a rough draft. There's a bunch of changes to make, and stuff I have to mess with yet. Stay tuned.