Things should be ‘projects’, not ‘systems’. They should end, so they can be forgotten. They must be in a fit state to be ended and forgotten. Books work with that idea, but websites are trickier. That’s slightly annoying, but there are great tools for making it easier. Not as easy as sticking a book in a cupboard for a century though. Hmm. I think I need another beer….

Metropolitan Museum of Art

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with a gang of Wikimedians and led by the wonderful Wikimedians in Residence at the Met, Neil and Richard. It was the day before we were all to catch the Adirondack (Amtrak #69) to New York, and it was raining, and I was completely jet-lagged from the trip from Australia the day before.

But it was wonderful!

After an initial (whirlwind) tour by Richard, our group of a dozen or so organically decided that we’d really quite like a bit of alone time, and went our separate ways around the hundreds (literally!) of gallery rooms in the museum.

I found George Washington of greenback fame:

I'm in the States now I guess

But reasonably quickly gave up on being a good art-looker and hid myself in the cafeteria with an overly-salty soup and some dry crackers… I’d been up since 3 already, and wasn’t sure I’d make it through the rest of the afternoon without crying.

However, after lunch I found the Frank Lloyd Wright room and the American Arts and Crafts items; and what a joy it was.

The American Wing

Frank Lloyd Wright room

I remember Greene & Greene vaguely from my days at art school, but seeing their armchair (1992.127) and library table (1981.316) was a breath of fresh air, and a reminder of the joy of truth to materials. These were pieces in which one could see the reality of the work. Ebony through-tenons in a table-top? That’s a beautiful idea!

Greene & Greene table with tenons

Then Gustave Stickley in the next room: his library table (1976.389.1) with a leather-clad top, screwed down with steel butterfly lugs (to the outside of the rails), and sidways-pegged tenons to the six legs. The inside bottom rails didn’t intersect, but are stacked on one another; such obviousness!

Library Table MET DP209329

Stickley’s sideboard: the doors are solid boards, jointed only with butterfly through tenons and seemingly no other bracing (they don’t need any). This stuff is about design, not so much for the Common Person, but for the Common Craftsperson. Design that makes things easy to make, honest in their representation of the abilities of the materials, and from those things to exhibit a raw and accessible beauty.

After that I returned to the open storage area, where large numbers of items from the collection are displayed in shelved glass-fronted cases, with as many items squeezed in as possible. It’s not the most flattering way to see some things, but then most of it was overly-ornamented 19th century stuff that I had little interest in. The good stuff, the simple and wooden furniture, was if anything enhanced by being often up higher than eye level (we could see underneath it with ease).

One piece caught my eye, and a visit to the weird huge touch-screens taught me that it was actually another Stickley piece (well, built by him; designed by Harvey Ellis). A small writing desk, 1981.440.1:

Desk MET 234742

This simplicity of construction gives an easier path between the designer and the maker (ideally, the two should be the same person). These ideas were explored more in Stickley’s journal The Craftsman (1901–16); I shall see if we can add these to Wikisource.

The Met has uploaded a huge number of images to Wikimedia Commons, and so as I went around I tried not to take a million photos—there are so many better ones already on the web, and freely usable. But I had to take some, either as aide-mémoires or because it seemed unlikely that the professional photographers would have paid close enough attention to the things that I am interested in. So I’ll upload at least a few new ones to Commons; the rest of mine can stay on Flickr.

Drawer for my toolbox

My main woodworking toolbox has two runners inside, near the top edge, on which to slide a drawer. I put them in when I built the thing (I made them too long, or the lid props too long, or something too long, and had to chop a bit out of them so the lid would close; see at right. That’s irrelevant to the task at hand though.)

But I have no drawer — so, I’m making one. I’ve got a few odd bits of pine sitting around, mostly destined to be paint stirrers; I’ll bodge them together in a squarish shape, and my chisels and small things will have somewhere to be put.

The piece of 19×42 was a bit fat, or at least I thought it might look a bit odd next to the skinny walls made from the other pieces, so I ripped it in half.

Docked to length (with a few millimeters to spare for cutting off later), I then cleaned up the sawn surfaces (a bit; I’m not fussy, and sometimes like to see some saw marks). I usually work with Tas. Oak, and am always surprised at the soft squishiness of pine, and the speed with which it can be worked (or butchered, as one might say in this case).

The drawer bottom pieces were actually already within a gnat’s crotchet of where they needed to be, so I just planned their ends to get them squared up and the right length. The sides I then marked to length off the bottoms, because I really don’t care how big this thing is (it just has to fit itself).

I really should get around to making myself a bench hook or two; they’re far better than hanging things off the end of the bench. But I’m lazy; whenever I’ve got energy for woodwork, I want to get on with the thing at hand, and not get caught up in jigs and set-up and prep. A ridiculous, inaccurate attitude, I’m sure. It’s not like I get shit done anyway.

The time had come for beer, so that was procured (from a shockingly plastic homebrew bottle), and the glue-up commenced. It didn’t go right, at first, but I went and found a proper glass for it (and found my battery drill with a 1 mm bit), and after that the nails went straight and true and didn’t blow out the sides.

Probably, one should try to avoid blogging about gluing things together while actually doing it. But then, the computer was right there in the cupboard playing odd things from Radio Paradise, so it seemed easy enough. Got a bit of glue on the camera grip though.

The two short sides were next, being cut to length each to their own. They fitted with no dramas. By this time it was dark, and I was wondering what it would cost to get something more than a single fluro tube lighting my shed. Or even a new extension cord so I could run the computer, amp, and a desk lamp on my bench (radio takes precedence at the moment).

So, all done.

The album for all these photos is at

The Food Co-op has a new domain name

The ANU Food Co-operative is now called the Food Co-op Shop, and (thanks to a pint bottle of Little Creatures Pale, and an hour or so of shuffling files around and fiddling with databases when I got home from work this evening) can now be found online at

Long live the Coop!!


My Sandstone University

Well, look here, I really can’t think very well at this time of night, so I don’t think you should expect much of this post.

I’m thinking of that cave just up from the Palm Tree Beach, the one who’s main enterance caved in a few years ago, leaving only the other more convoluted way in. It’s a nice cave, but the beach in front is more where I’m at. If that makes sense. The reeds and the sand, the memories of ignoring that bit and running past, along the path, to get to Never’s or Fragle. That’s what I’m getting at. The sun, and bleeding (but not caring) from climbing back up the cliff.

Of taking one of the school’s Spotmatics down there, and a tripod, and taking (crap) photos of bits of rock and thinking them oh-so-representitive of Blackwall Reach. Then the photography teacher thinking that they were, and thus being dis-illusioned at the photography teacher’s skill in judging photos…

So, this little beach, and photographs across the river to the old sugar refinery. It’s just about a Place, and a damned solid, viceral connection (at some point in time). So why on Earth is this coming up now? No reason, beyond being just a little squiffy, and that I’d like to be back there one day.

At least, as the winter closes in here in Canberra, I’d like to be back there.


So, we’re all sitting around, I’m sort of pissed (from a bit of a bottol of beer, and a bit of a bottil of wine) and life’s okay.  Thing is, I’m in here typing away here, ’cause the girls are out there talking about teaching and I’ve got little to say really and that’s okay and all, and I mean that, it is, but I’m somewhat more into woodwork today, or even programming, but what’s there to say?  Nothing, really, nothing much at any rate.  And because I’m a bit pissed, I’m rather in the mood for going back to WA, or not ‘going back’, but at least being there and being warm.  Yeah, being warm, that’d be nice.  Being warm.  Huzza!  I’d like to be in the bush in the hills in Perth, and with a hand axe making things.  Walking about the place, that’s what I’m thinking; roving, if you will, wandering about the hills, walking into town now and then for food, but mostly just making wood things with simple tools.  A bottle or so of scotch maybe, for evenings by the fire and rolled up in my swag.  That’d be nice.  Or so I think now.  Yeah, I do.  It’d be nice.  Not be all caught up with coding some new thing that I think people’ll use, but in fact they don’t need to use, because what fuckin’ use are computers anyway?  Eh?  What use?!  Bloody none, so’s far as I can see; better we were all growing food, brewing beer, and fucking.  That’s more to the point of life, so’s far as I can see.  But I’ll do this, this degree thing, that’s what I’ll do.  That’s what seems to be useful at the moment.  I think. Maybe.  I’ll live in a little house one day, with my vegies, and I’ll keep a blog probably, because how can one leave what’s been a part of one’s life?  Don’t know.  I’ll keep a blog, or something like that, and contribute to Wikipedia’s woodworking section, and make things out of wood between times, because that’s really where life’s at, for me.  So’s far as I can see.  Which mayn’t be far, that I can say, mayn’t be far, but it’s far enough to see that computer programming’ll get me a ‘safe’ job, with a ‘safe’ income, but what’s it gonna gi’me in the way of joy?!  Of that all-encompassing joy and extreme satisfaction in what one does in a day?!  Dunno.  Seems like it might just be a bit shallow or summint, like it’s missing a bit.  I would be, if I could, wandering, making, writing, and full of the exquisite joy of the life that’s not the life that is told to me.  If that makes sense?  Dunno if it does.  Maybe it does.  Hmmmm…

It might be time for another beer.  That’s something that I’d touch on before, though: drinking.  It’s a thing that releases me from all this hideous worry about What To Do, whether programming is The Thing for me, and I like getting pissed for that reason.  I like it because when I’m a bit drunmk, out of myself somewhat, I feel oh so fucking drawn to making, to walking and being with the world and nature.  I want to hug the wood, hug the night and the day and shout and sing and in any whay I can be an idle singer of an empty day!…  That’d be the thing.  Being here, Canberra, being at uni, these things don’t do it really.  Not really I thinmk…