Federico Tobon’s Kinetic Sculptures

In honor of #MakeNovember, Federico Tobon (our guest on episode 108 of the Root Simple podcast) has challenged himself to make one kinetic sculpture every day and post the results in social media. For inspiration he’s using an 1868 book with the delightful title, Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements: all those which are most important in dynamics, hydraulics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, steam engines, mill and other gearing, presses, horology, and miscellaneous machinery, and including many movements never before published and several which have only recently come into use by Henry T. Brown. Follow the link for a website with all the movements (and even some that have been animated!).

A tip of the mechanical hat to Federico for both the amazing sculptures and for making Facebook, Instagram and Twitter worth looking at again. As Federico says:

For our US readers, we wish you all a happy #Makesgiving.

The Art of Sadeli Mosaic

I stumbled on a beautiful video by Sneha Sarang showing Indian craftsman creating the intricate decorative art called Sadeli mosaic. Used to adorn small boxes in India, the Middle East and Iran, the technique is similar to the way “slice and bake” cookies and European “rock” candy are made.

Narrow triangular strips of wood, metal or plastic are cut using a jig on a table saw:

The strips are gathered into bundles:


and applied to a wood backing:

It looks simple but I’m sure it takes many years of practice.

What Would William Morris Say?

Tidying prophetess Marie Kondo has her “spark joy” test. Hold an object, ask if it “sparks joy” and if not, send it to the thrift store to clutter some other person’s house. I’ve been working on another de-cluttering concept, currently in the beta testing stage, that will have us all ask, “what would William Morris say?”

William Morris, one of the most prominent members of the Arts and Crafts movement, took part in a last ditch effort to bring dignity back to work and stave off the horrors of an industrialized, consumer culture. His mantra, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” is a sentiment I feel the need to foreground in my own struggles with clutter and consumer culture. This is why I’m introducing the new William Morris Meme™.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re at Home Depot looking at patio furniture. As yourself, “what would William Morris say?” Then picture the William Morris Meme:

What if you’re arguing with your spouse over a certain Ikea impulse purchase:

Or you’re pondering a trip to Costco:

I know, the salmon is a bargain, but William Morris thinks you’ll end up with a basket full of pizza pockets and a Taco Bell hoodie.

How about spending some time on Facebook?

I think I’ve got the makings of a new anti-consumerist app. Unfortunately, I doubt that Zuck’s tech-bro pals will send over any venture capital.

Stuff That’s Happening

John McDonald will be screening never before seen clips from a documentary in progress about the 3 Mules guy, John Sears on Wedensday November 15th in Romona, California. For more information see 3MulesMovie.com. I went to a screening back in June and McDonald’s film raises profound questions about the use of the commons.

Biodynamic beekeper Gunther Hauk will be teaching a two part workshop on Saturday December 2nd at Highland Hall Waldorf school in Northridge, California. Head over here to sign up.

Lastly, Bike buddy Colin Bogart has set up a Facebook group for Pacific Ready-Cut homeowners. Pacific Ready-Cut was the West Coast answer to the Sears kit house. Odds are good that if you live in an old house anywhere from LA to Seattle it was milled by this company. Join the Facebook group to share experiences about living in a tiny and old house.


How to Organize a Small Workshop

I’ve got a lot of home repair projects in my immediate future and I’ve noticed, from experience, that when my workshop is usable and organized those projects tend to go a lot more smoothly. In the past few months I’ve decided to focus on making my tiny workshop both useful and pleasant. The challenge has been that our 1920s garage is tiny–sized for two Model-Ts–and must also accommodate our Honda Fit. At the risk of seeming like I’ve come down from the mountaintop with stone tablets, permit me to share a few things I’ve learned about tiny workshop design:

  • Put everything on wheels. Get some locking wheels at the hardware store and the workshop will be infinitely re-configurable. You can even roll everything outside when needed to work on large pieces or to deal with dust issues.
  • Use Sketchup to figure out the best configuration. Most tools, cars and cabinets have been modeled for you by the Sketchup community. All you have to do is make a quick sketch of your work space and download the components.
  • Make all tools and workbenches the same height. When you do this every surface is a potential out-feed table for a table saw, miter saw etc.
  • Use chalkboard paint to label cabinets and drawers.
  • Clean as you work. I don’t always live up to this principle in the workshop or in the kitchen, but when you don’t have a lot of room you’ve got to put stuff back and get rid of scraps otherwise things get ugly and dangerous.
  • Thou shalt not store crap in thy workshop. A clean and organized workshop is inspiring. Banish the crap and you’ll make space for creativity. I even hosted a cocktail party in the workshop on Halloween.

And to the dolt who recently suggested closing libraries, let me note that the inspiration for the layout of my workshop came from a book I stumbled on while browsing the stacks of the library, Great Workshops From Fine Woodworking. When it comes to home repair and woodworking information I seek out Taunton Press books when at the library.