13 February 2018

DTC Coping saw introfit

Work in progress
I finally bought a Knew Concepts coping saw. Of course, I've been lusting after one since I first tried out a model while still working at Harvey. I planned on buying one from Lee Valley and schlepping it back through customs during my last trip to the States. I had to reduce the economic impact of that order for marital reasons and so the high priced piece of aluminum was deleted from the shipment.
During my work developing the children's classes, however, I was introduced to a local Taobao merchant, Plawood, that carries the Knew Concept saws. I was a bit confused and examined the sample attentively, thinking that it must be shanzhai since Harvey has exclusive distributorship on the mainland.
I cannot explain what the business relationship is between Plawood and Harvey, but it's evident that Plawood is selling items imported by Harvey. Is this an example of outsourcing the domestic retail distribution of the woodworking imports? It seems that they might even reexport internationally as long as one doesn't order during the lunar new year holiday. It's yet another market mystery with Chinese characteristics. I was not allowed to leave Harvey with any of the tools that I was encouraged to purchase while there and thus I swore not to ever buy from them again. This latest development somehow carved out a workaround to this dilemma.
Photogenic and visually available
And now with the saw in hand, I tasked myself with making a home for this coping saw inside my toolchest. There is inherently a trial and error approach to this sort of project. Like most tool users with access to the internet, the first step typically involves searching online for other examples of whatever we are trying to make. I don't know whether this method is more inclined to generating inspiration or more about procrastinating. Despite the growing collection of handtools cluttering the DTC since I first built the fixtures to secure my LN saws, I knew that there was still enough room for this addition, but it would be tight fit and a compounded challenge.

My first prototype was meant to take advantage of the strutwork of the frame. I think I was overly influenced by online examples, believing that there needed to be knobs and holddowns with springs or threaded fixtures to make this work.
First internetworthy prototype
Certainly there were many contact surfaces to help support it, but I still needed to find/fabricate some sort of springy tines or turnknobs in order to complete it. I found some springclips for hanging clothes that would have required cutting, drilling, and coating the tips with rubber to prevent from scratching the softer aluminum. There was still some doubt as to whether these would hold securely and not fail over time. This design process endured a few days as I considered possible mechanical solutions, visiting the nearest B&Q to stock up on from their very limited supply of fasteners. But I did get sucked into buying another metric/imperial tape measure and a pump sprayer for the phalaenopses.

During one of my commutes and inspired by the aetheric spirit of John Harrison, I abandoned this prototype and reimagined another. By the time I arrived at the woodshop, I had the steps in how to cut the fixture plotted ahead mentally. To be clear, I screwed up the first attempt by crosscutting the back of the grooved section, but it was easy enough to make a second which is shown.
Friction fit
I still thought that I needed to apply at least one turnknob at the top, but the friction is enough to keep the aluminum frame secure. With this sort of arrangement, I might need to wait until the summer humidity proves this design's parameters. If there is any excess looseness then, I can readily add some sort of improvised hardware to solve the issue.
It was necessary to undercut the back to allow for the slides that hold the beam to a panelgauge.
The coping saw in its new home
Gongxi Facai!

05 February 2018

Sunday Schooling

applying fresh milk paint to climbing toys
While the recent unusually wintry spell has reduced my productivity in the Pukou woodshop (I usually work until my feet get too numb or the sunlight puts too much of a strain on my diminishing eyesight at about 5:00), I've been engaged in a new teaching venture.  Initially I was interviewed for what was an attempt to promote,  TouchWood, an established Taiwanese woodcraft hobby brand in the Nanjing schools. It's a foreign brand so the director wanted a foreign face. (I cannot explain it but this is so common that the mainland Chinese don't even understand why it's questioned.) There was a lot of back and forth and vague promises about making me famous. I just saw a lot of money being thrown at a project with little understanding of its pedagogical function but backed with the marketing dominance of the Phoenix Publishing head office already well positioned within the school system. The first meeting, scheduled early in the day, revealed a near complete lack of preparation as to its purpose so a second meeting was scheduled in order for me to meet somebody who understood something.
Wang Meng's ukulele kit assembly class
And at the second meeting I met Wang Meng who was operating a little woodcraft boutique across town while also a university instructor. I think that I've mentioned this phenomenon. There are little shops for leathercraft, cake decorating, pottery, and other sundry activities with varying degrees of competence. I didn't see much in his shop that stood out, but he did express an interest in working with me to develop more 'instructional' classes for children. He gained my confidence by expressing an understanding of my objections to the Phoenix approach with TouchWood. And so for the last few weeks, I have been collaborating to create new classes that fit within the constraints of a woodshop installed on the 31st floor and the constraints of students with short attention spans. 3 hours.
Childsafe saw proving difficult for a child to use

Phoenix is also a distributor of many foreign brand educational toys. We were given a supply of childsafe tools from Corvus. The easiest way to describe their products is that they make dull edged tools. It's clear that a saw that cannot cut tender flesh can no more even cut softwoods. It became evident early on that we needed to upgrade the supplied fretsaw blades if we ever expected students to complete their projects in the allotted timeframe. I suspect that Phoenix was planning to sell such tools to hyperanxious Chinese mothers. I'm surprised, though, that there are enough German mothers to have initially created a market demand there. Do any German parents give their children dull knives, too, when teaching them how to do kitchen tasks? 
Motherly pride
Although I should not have been surprised, it was made manifest throughout the day that parents were as keen or moreso to participate in learning about woodworking. Some of this can be attributed to the children's short attention spans and low motor skills, but it can be more easily explained by adults who were denied such opportunities in their own childhood. I concluded with Wang Meng that if we saw that the parents were happy, then we could be confident that we had done well with the classes.  And yet there is also an element of Chinese parenting that sees every aspect of their childrearing as a competition for their children's future. Two mothers, in particular, exhbited this kind of anxiety.
helicopter woodworking

body language
But overall, most parents enjoyed themselves along with their restive youngsters. These photos were taken during two sessions conducted on the 4th of February, 2018 of our first class offering.
Mother and strings

Joy from playing with toys made by one's own hands

Demonstrating some mysteries of milk

There will likely be more class offerings after the Lunar New Year festival. Gounian kuaile, dajia!