Art School: Semester 5, Week 11

Apparently this semester goes to 11. Who knew? Given the way I feel, though, we’ve blown well past week 11 and are in about year three of the semester, so to speak. It’s been a long, long week. Next week will be very long as well, I can already see that. If I am very (VERY!) lucky, the week after will start to be a bit easier. Time will tell.

And speaking of that feeling, a friend just sent me this:

Apropos, don’t you think? (Thank you, Ducky!)

“Why is it so crazy (and stressful, and tiring)?” I hear you ask. It’s all about being a perfectionist and making things way too difficult on myself. With that in mind — and deliberately avoiding the awful news of the day — here’s the status of Jeff’s art school world:


Have you wondered about the first picture above? Perhaps you recognized the stainless steel table used as the backdrop and thought to yourself:

Jeff shares a lot of design class related photos that have stainless steel tables in them. This looks like another one of those, so it might be something from his design class. But what? And why stainless steel tables?

If you thought that, congratulations! You’re on the ball!

For reasons unknown to me, the design room has very tall stainless steel tables for us to work on. We also get (effectively) bar stools on very good wheels, so it is possible to push away from a table and roll a considerable distance. Amusingly, the shorter people in the class cannot reach the floor with their feet if they are sitting in one of these stools at a reasonable height to work at the tables. We’ve had a number of interesting discussions about the setup, and so far no one has admitted it was their idea. Clearly it’s better then tiny chairs with tiny desks attached to them, but it’s still a bit odd.


This past week saw me do a lot more sanding on the parts of my stool. And I tried to fit them together a couple of times. Those experiences were very frustrating. Partly that’s because the fins fit very tightly into some of the slots in the top and bottom, and partly it’s because I made a HUGE mistake when I changed the design of the top and bottom. I can do some sanding to make the fins fit a bit better, of course, but as for the design… yeah. Not so easy to fix that.

You might remember this photo:

On the left is the original idea for the top (and bottom), and on the right is the revised design. The left one has 16 more parts in the stool than the right one, so it seems to be a more complicated layout, right? And the right side should be easier to assemble? If only that was true.

It turns out that in the newer design, things can move. A lot. You can put a fin through a slot, and it can shift along one axis. And the fin directly across the top of the stool can shift with it. There is plenty of play, so they can move, at least until everything is inserted. And even if they only move a tiny bit — say 1/16" or so — the alignment of all the other slots for the other fins gets messed up. If you’re not paying very close attention, it looks like things cannot fit at all.

And to be honest, given the errors in the CNC setup when I cut the wood, it is possible the stool cannot actually be assembled. But I haven’t proven that yet. Every time I try to put things together there is a huge wrestling match with the various parts of the top and bottom vs. the fins. Nothing wants to fit nicely or cleanly. Things are out of line, and getting them in line means getting everything in line, all at the same time. With the fins, that’s hard to do, since they attach to both the top and the bottom. So…

What you see are 16 temporary fin replacement tools being glued together in bunches. Each tool consists of a piece the width of a fin slot — so it can go through the slots in the top and bottom— attached to a base to hold the assembled top (or bottom) off the table while it is worked on. The theory is that using these I can assemble all the bits of the top and bottom without having to mess with the fins at all. At least — in theory — I can permanently attach the inner circle and outer ring of the top to the lower piece, and I can confirm that the wedges all fit properly. Once the glue dries on the rings, I can remove these tools, remove the wedges, and then go off and install the fins themselves, gluing them into place permanently, followed by the wedges.

So I guess I am a tool creating animal, at least for my design class.

Aboriginal Carving

The bowl carving continues. Last week I promised a photo, so here it is:

It’s a small bowl, roughly 4" x 8" x 2.5". And the walls are still far too thick. There is quite a bit of work to do to get them thinned down to what I want.

Many of the marks you see in the interior are actually present in the wood, and are not tooling marks. Alder apparently does that.

And yes, it’s very simple. The instructor asked for that, and I am honouring his request. For now. As a result I continue to be caught up in this class, and am quite happy with my position there.


Here we find out where all my time is going, and it’s been a weird week.

Starting last weekend, I continued working on the interior of the bowl (which, as you might recall, was sitting on a low, wooden pedestal). The original rock weighed something like 750 pounds, so moving it was challenging.

But by Saturday evening, here’s where things were:

That’s right… it’s up on cinder blocks, like a rusted out Ford pickup in the front yard. :)

Actually, the deal is that I wanted it higher, to make it easier to work on. But I cannot lift it. In fact, I’d gotten some help earlier in the day and we had been unable to do anything useful except drop it to the ground. Thankfully no one was injured, but it was exciting!

So to get it up on those blocks was amazing. It involved tilting the bowl and putting something just a few inches taller underneath one side. Then lift and rotate it onto that new surface. Next, find a way to make a surface a bit higher and repeat. I managed to get it 16" into the air — and onto those cinder blocks — all by myself.

I spent the rest of the day working it there, being cautious about the fact that cinder blocks aren’t exactly the world’s most stable or secure surface. At the end of the day or Saturday I had thinned it out some more on the inside and cleaned up a bunch of the rough edges on the outside. It looked like this:

Note the barricades to keep anyone from accidentally bumping into it overnight.

Sunday I went back to work and kept on making it lighter. Then — with some amazing luck — the same person that helped me drop it on the floor on Saturday helped me get it onto a table on Sunday. We just picked it up and voila:

As you can see, by the end of the weekend I had smoothed out the full exterior quite a bit and I was even starting to play with the holes I envisioned in it at the time.

Work progressed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

By the end of those three days I had continued to refine the shape, refined the foot for the bottom, and I had a better plan for the openings I wanted to create. Things were going along swimmingly.

Then Thursday arrived. It started out well. I cut the first opening into the interior:

Recall the presence of the orange awning I am working under. That explains the weird orange interior. It’s not a view into some lavascape. In truth it all looks grey in regular light.

At this point I had a conversation with my instructor. She questioned my interest in holes appearing at regular, symmetric points, and caused me to ponder just about everything I am doing. (She’s good at this. We’ve had several very different discussions about this project so far. It’s entertaining and enlightening, but also a bit maddening. Oops. I suppose I should be careful. She might be reading this!)

Anyway, given her concern about the nature of the envisioned openings, I paused on this and went off to work on the aluminum cast. I fired up the angle grinder to cut the big hunks of spurious aluminum off and it quickly made an awful noise. The sound of an angle grinder dying is not a good one. Not at all.

I spent the next hour or so trying to clean it out and figure out the problem — it’s an expensive tool… this is not a $40 thing — but there was nothing to be learned or done. It seems to be dead. Thus, when class ended on Thursday I went home to make plans to visit a tool store on Friday morning, which was needed to start the recovery.

Friday arrived and I visited a local tool shop. The close one didn’t carry the brand of grinder I had previously used, but I bought a good one (I hope) and went on to school. Once there I went back to working on the foot of the bowl. I rolled over the rock, did some grinding, and then started chiselling out the area on the bottom that doesn’t matter for the bottom. At that point mother nature took over…

See that large dark area in the middle of the bottom? Looks odd, doesn’t it? And note the whitish spot visible at the front edge of that dark area? White… just like the sandbag the stone is sitting on. Huh. I wonder what that could be?

Yes, I punched hole right through the bottom. There must have been a weak spot in the stone. I think there was plenty of thickness there for what I was doing, but the stone had a different opinion about that.

So now the sculpture has a small hole in an unexpected place.

I sat back and pondered that for a while and decided that I was OK with that so long as I changed plans (again). And, in fact, that hole manages to answer a whole series of questions about what and how this work is going to come together. I have most of the final vision now, and the point of no return has arrived.

I am not, however, going to give it away here. You’ll have to come back next week to see how it’s going and what I do this weekend! (Yes, I know. I am mean. But then again, you’re the one reading this drivel, so clearly some amount of pain is OK with you, right?)

I will tell you this: look at the new, blue line around the hole in one of the photos above. It will matter.

I was asked about the lines inside the bowl from last week’s photos. They are not intentionally part of the design. Instead they are an artifact of the way I am cutting out the interior of the rock. I cut slots with a diamond blade, leaving somewhere between 1/4" and 3/4" of stone between them. Then I come back with a hammer and chisel and knock out the stone bits left behind. That way I don’t have to turn everything into dust, and the removal of the stone in this case is much easier (on me) than removing the same area that is solid stone. Win win, as they say.

In any case, When I cut the slots I tended to cut them vertically from top to bottom inside the bowl, and radially around it. That is shifting, however as I work on things more. There may be more slots cut horizontally in the interior that are visible in the final work. It all has to do with how easy it is to estimate wall thickness and keep dust out of the angle grinder. Weird criteria, I know, but there you have it.

Other School(ish) Stuff

I spent a couple (nearly four, actually) hours working on the stand for the plastic shredder. There is now a place to attach an electrical breaker/switch box, and the castors have an obvious home too. The boss says he wants to paint this thing, so we need to get that done before we attach the castors. Thus, I hit a stopping point.

The motor has arrived, and the shredder chamber parts were out being water jet cut last I heard. So we might start more assembly in the next week or three. Assuming sculpture class lets that happen.


Hahaha. Yeah, Not so much this week either. Sorry. Just the usual Art School Post Index. So you can see these stories in order if you want to.


While I have had a request for more dog pics, I’m afraid I don’t have any to share just yet. This week Skookie was up much of two nights with a hairball.(Don’t ask me… hairballs are apparently only a problem between 11 pm and 3 am… weird dog.) In turn, Cruzer was very worried about her being up, so he kept me up. Sleep was in short supply this week as a result.

In other dog related news, Tinkerbelle has continued to distinguish herself in the “Bark At The Neighbour Dog” Olympics, where her current best score is a 9.875 achieved at 7am last Wednesday morning. (The Russian judge only gave her a 9.0 for reasons clearly related to the ongoing Mueller investigation.)

So, no dog pics, but I do have this to share:

I love that last line. I haven’t actually been to this place yet, but it’s on the walk from the house to the SeaBus terminal, which it seems I wind up taking a lot on the weekends when the bus schedule is less than spectacularly useful. Maybe next time I do the walk I will make the detour (which in this case means following the sign and turning right instead of going straight) and see what these folks have going on.

And In Conclusion…

So… ummm… there’s this, but before you click on it, please understand that I have no clue what is going on here.

How (or why) Google’s AI system did this I honestly have no clue. And if you feel the need to stop watching after 30 seconds or so, that’s fine. I totally understand. Based on some of the comments it seems this might be more like an LSD trip than some actual LSD trips.

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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