Wulf's Webden

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Sunday 18 April 2021
by Wulf

Red Robin

To be frank, I still don’t think I’d plant Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’. It is boldly coloured and evergreen (except for the red bits) but the leaves are quite leathery and I’m suspicious about how it doesn’t struggle with other plants growing around it. However, having a mature specimen in our garden, it is a popular refuge for birds readying themselves to visit our feeders and it will certainly be allowed to remain until we have other plants fulfilling that role. It is also rather glorious when the young growth captures the sun.

Stay of execution granted!

Saturday 17 April 2021
by Wulf

Boards and boards

I made two mistakes in today’s woodworking. Firstly, I took a break because I realised I needed a new router bit of a more appropriate size. When I got back, I’d forgotten that I only needed tongues on some of the boards and proceeded to spend twice as long as I needed cutting them on all the pieces I’d trimmed into lengths earlier. Fortunately, that doesn’t compromise anything critical about the design; I just lose about 6mm off the bottom of the sides, which had a much larger overhang built in.

Worse though was making the assumption that all the boards were created equal. It turns out that some are narrower than expected by about 20%. I might be able to recover from that but I decided to concentrate on the best set. They aren’t perfect but I was able to use the previously cut tongues to cut bespoke grooves and those have been glued and clamped, ready for the next stage. I’ll proceed cautiously and see if I can finish building the design with one planter. If that works, then I can consider whether the other bits I’ve cut will work for a second.

Lessons learnt (or relearnt): measure everything and, if it isn’t consistent, don’t try to work on a production-line methodology. At least the router table works pretty well. Adjusting the bit height is quite easy and I think I’ve got an idea for how I can fine tune the interaction of the bit and the fence (since the fence runs on an angle, larger marks on the edge should give finer adjustment running past the bit, like working on an over-sized protractor).

Friday 16 April 2021
by Wulf

Back to the Drawing Board

Rather than doing a lot of woodwork, I’ve actually spent most of the day sitting in front of my computer working on an old version of Sketch-up and planning my design. There were quite a few scribbles and calculations on bits of paper too but using computer assisted design gives a neater end result and also allows checking the calculated lengths actually work. Part of the slowness was that I’m rusty on using the program and was never much of an expert in any case. As the day wore on, it became apparent that there were other issues too.

A design that takes hours to figure out the cut list, and where every piece looks like it will need multiple precise runs on the router, sounds like one that is destined to end up with some frustrating mistakes and wasted materials along the way. Could it be, I thought, that I am being a little over-complicated? It has been known!

Version two still involves some careful cutting and routing but much less so. I can start with a simple trial on some scrap wood and, if I can successfully join two boards side by side with a tongue and groove joint, I can repeat that on a small number of longer pieces. Most of the rest of the joinery consists of a small variety of rabbets and dados.

That will still test my skills and the utility of the router table I made yesterday but I think I have a decent chance of creating a couple of decent looking and sturdy herb planters rather than just a pile of more scrap wood and sawdust!

Thursday 15 April 2021
by Wulf

Ready to Rout

Today’s DIY has mainly been about creating this:

Router Table
DIY Router Table

It is a simple version of a router table which fits on top of my workbench. The router motor isn’t shown in this photo but it fits into the frame that is positioned under the surface. Rather than having to move the router over the piece I am working on, I can move the piece over the spinning cutter, which should allow for greater precision and repeatability.

It looks like it should have been pretty simple but it wasn’t without its challenges. Even the base, made from a solid piece of chipboard that used to be part of a chest of drawers, took a while. I needed to use the router to cut away a circular shape in the centre in which the Perspex base plate could rest and then add further holes for the cutter to come up and to screw the base plate down.

If I’d stuck with that, I could have been done by lunchtime but I decided that I also wanted to add an adjustable fence including a dust collection box where I can insert the suction pipe from the vacuum cleaner (the blue unit you can see on the floor). That took a combination of design skills and grubbing around to figure out which parts to use. One way I could save time is to rationalise my collection of screws, bolts, washers, drill bits and the like to give fewer choices but ones that work well together!

The fence runs diagonally for a reason. It is fastened at one end with a bolt and I can rotate it out of the way or so that the cutting bit is almost completely covered. The other end can be clamped down and then I’ll probably just need one more clamp to keep everything stable. Because I’m working through a stock of reused chipboard, the appearance is a bit clunky in parts but, in theory, it should all work well. Tomorrow I’m planning a real test – assembling some herb planters including routing some tongue and groove joints for which the table, simple as it is, ought to be a real boon.

Wednesday 14 April 2021
by Wulf

Not Yet Smart

We were due to get a smart meter fitted this afternoon. We switched to Octopus Energy when we moved in last summer and we’ve been very happy with them. Because of that — and since they are fitting the second generation smart meters which are promised not to turn into bricks should you decide to move to a different supplier — we decided it was time to take this step.

Unfortunately, the engineer explained that, although a small door gives easy access to our consumer unit and meter, he also needed to get to the incoming feed and the fuse attached to it. This is contained a very neat piece of DIY cabinetry which sadly neglected to included any way to easily remove the hardboard and veneer covering those items.

So, one of my current DIY jobs is figuring out how to re-engineer this so that the vital components are protected from splashes (being located in the downstairs loo, boxing in is essential) but are also accessible when required. I’ve done the first stage, peeling back some of the covering. Now comes the more involved process of working out how to re-do it better and then, finally, we can get smart.

Tuesday 13 April 2021
by Wulf

Follow the Lead

If you are having problems with electronic devices, it doesn’t hurt to check how you are connecting them together. Recently, the video camera we use for church seemed to start playing up. When I was recording a talk for Easter, it froze up when I was in full flow and then I couldn’t get more than a minute out of it… until I ordered a shiny new USB cable and it has been fine since.

I think that is indicative that the old cable was at fault. All I need now is a better way to check out my other assorted USB cables that is better than ‘test by failure’.

Monday 12 April 2021
by Wulf

I’ve Changed My Mind

Below are some notes that outline the reflection I shared with the church PCC tonight, on the topic of being willing to change your mind.

One of the fundamental principles as we meet and discuss is that you are allowed to change your mind. For example, take the following poem, which you will also recognise as a song:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

William Blake, Jerusalem

Don’t expect me to use it in leading regular worship anytime soon. However, I feel less antipathy to the lyrics than I used to. Once upon a time I thought it was a load of unhistorical nonsense. Of course Jesus didn’t visit England! What jingoistic claptrap! But, attending a wedding when it was sung, it struck me that perhaps William Blake wasn’t suggesting that. Maybe the intended answer to the first verse was not “yes” but “no”. That could be why Blake, a committed political radical, issues a rallying cry in the second verse. Jerusalem wasn’t built here but, in this industrialising age, we see dark satanic mills being erected and we need to do something about it here and now rather than pining for a mythical green and golden age.

I was at the online Spring Harvest last week and reminded of another poem where I changed my mind about what it was saying. The morning devotions drew on the Psalms, including Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121 (NIV)

I used to think that the psalmist lifted his eyes to the mountains, looking to help from those places. After all, nowhere feels grander than the view from a mountain top. However, a few years ago I was studying with a friend through A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson’s masterful study on Psalms 120 – 134, the “songs of ascent”. He pointed out that the high places were where pagan altars were built and Israel was led astray. The psalmist reminds himself of the danger from the high places and lifts his eyes higher still, to the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

It is good to have opinions but vital to also be open to examining our assumptions and changing our minds. Let us listen to God together. Let us be ready to encounter him in business as worship as well as the business of worship. Let us be willing to share our thoughts, change our minds and, in co-operation, help guide our church forward together.