Monday, 29 September 2008

I finally got around to finishing the installation of the bellpull mechanism today. September weekend holiday and the weather was vile, so a good opportunity to get it done. The flat has had a horrid dingdong "Avon calling" type chime although the bellpush was the original brass one, ever since Ally bought the flat in early 1980s. However we now have a nice bellpull, which says "Waste" on it, just to confuse the unwary.

It now has a brass pull, huge wooden pulley and makes a pleasant tinkly sound from a small brass goat bell.

You can see the full details at Instructables:

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Fascinating morning noseying round Reids Gear Works in Linwood, Scotland. The firm is shutting down after 4 generations and the Clyde Heritage Trust hopes to retrieve items not going to auction and also to get at least some of the buildings listed. Very few industrial buildings are listed in Scotland, compared to other types of buildings and this is a very rare example of a complete original that still has many old fittings and furniture.

I have no idea what this object is so if anyone has any idea, do let me know. It seems to have no means to connect it to any power or water or anything but must do something.

The factory specialises in making gears some of which are enormous, also winches and capstans. They first make a very accurate pattern in wood which is used to make the sand mould for casting, then the casting is drilled, milled, ground etc to the correct precision.

I took loads of pics which you can find at Flickr:

Friday, 26 September 2008

We had a quiet week on the Isle of May this summer. Due to the terrible weather the daily tourist boats hardly came out and we actually had the island entirely to ourselves for a couple of days, which is always lovely. A few years ago the powers that be exerted themselves in a piece of gratuitous vandalism and demolished one of the wartime buildings (Indicator loops hut) in Fluke Street, resulting in a substantial pile of broken brick, which is very slowly being used as hardcore for paths and so on. I did some modest rearranging of the various coloured bits to make this smiley facing the principal keepers house on Fluke Street. My family never noticed so I wonder if anyone else has yet. I admit it is a bit like those tests for colourblindness.

You can see all about what the building was like at The authorities claimed it was hazardous but I reckon it was built to be bombproof pretty near and showed no signs of deterioration. It just didnt fit their image of prettiness perhap.s

Monday, 22 September 2008

Is this cheating a little? This pic is actually my dad's house. The ship is one that he and I made together the year I was 15 and is from the age of transition from pure sail to steam, as it had an engine and propellor as well as the usual three masts square rigged. Having slogged through the slow process of making that, from a wooden kit, I then understood how such models worked and made a number of others from scratch over the years, including one from paper and card, on the same frame and plank principle, and another of the Mayflower from the original plans in Plymouth Library.

The cruder wee toy models on top of the cupboards represent two of the sorts of ships I sailed on when I was a merchant navy deck officer, and a traditional Cypriot bus, known to the squaddies there in the 1980s as a Bondu Bus.

Its just been the first dry weekend since May and sods law we had to spend the entire time indoors at the Green party conference. Lets hope for better weather over the holiday weekend.

I was chatting to a fascinating young woman today who makes the high-accuracy wooden 'Patterns' used for making the greensand moulds for casting iron. She does both artistic items and machinery parts but started out as a sculptor. Good to know that such essential skills have not totally died out. However she had not heard of steampunk, which surprised me given that she was arty/engineery and young. Amazing how many people have never heard of the culture, even though it is all over the place in films and so on.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Here is my old Jones sewing machine. Again, I cannot remember a time when there hasnt been one of these in my life. I learnt to sew on my mother's Singer, which was in virtually every way similar to this Jones. This machine has been with me since the early 70s when I first had a flat of my own and my parents rescued this from a skip (skipraiding is hereditory isnt it?) for me. It was orignally a treadle operated machine because you can see the drive wheel that the leather belt would have gone round (the silvery rimmed wheel at the near end of the machine) and there is a slot in the wooden base for the belt to go down to the treadle.

I have made clothes, furnishings, and all sorts of fabric things on this for over 30 years and it seems indestructible, only needing oiled every 10 years or so to keep it purring happily through denim and leather as well as thinner stuff. I have tried to use a prewar electric machine but they changed the design of the threading and the bobbins at some point before that and I grew up with these and cannot somehow adapt myself to the newer ones. The old bobbins are bullet shaped but the modern ones are little cylinders. Techy in most other ways you would think I could make the jump wouldnt you?

I love the idea that with this and my windup gramophone I am all set for clothes and entertainment when the power all goes.

Considering that today the banks are falling like dominoes, who knows what is coming next.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

I am starting out with the family's biggest windup gramophone because I now realise these wonderful machines were my first introduction to steampunk, when I was a small kid in the 1950s. I cannot remember a time when I havent had one. The lovely big one in the picture is still at my dad's house until I can figure a way to bring it home to Scotland by train. It weighs a tonne and the horn is of course enormous and fairly fragile, being papier mache with fake snake paper on it. The shape of the horn was designed for hifi sound reproduction and a really amazing loudness. We have often had to shove pullovers and cushions in the horn to keep from annoying the entire street.
I have 3 portable windups and one transition one which operates more or less like a windup but is actually electrically operated. I have had (now sadly gone the way of many windups in the 1970s when no one repaired them) a lovely cabinet machine but this big one was a gift to the family from a colleague of my father's. She lived in a tiny house and couldnt take this in when her own mum died. Most of my parents 78s were jazz and blues but mine are mostly swing, crooners and musicals' hits. The first record ever bought for me, when I was preschool, was a 78 of Perry Como's most famous hit: Catch a Falling Star. I also had lots of childrens novelty songs on 78, such as "Two little tom tits were tweeting" and of course teddy bears picnic. When I was in nursery school in the late 50s, the end of the day was always a windup playing 78s of our choice, while we waited for our mums to fetch us. Now my kids are intrigued and one of my wee portables occupies the coffee table in the living room.