Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tréteau IV

Well the last few days have been a little chaotic for me. First of all I came down with a cold which slowed things down a bit. Then, while getting towards the final stages of some drawing work I am doing as part of a consultation, SketchUp started overwhelming my computer and it repeatedly crashed. I would restart and then find that some data had been lost, even if it had been previously saved, and this resulted in more than a little hair-pulling and stress. It gets a little old when you find yourself drawing the same thing for the fourth time and not sure if it will be lost again.

So, I went out and got a new computer - a new Mac Mini to replace my old Mac Mini. The processor chip is nearly twice as fast and it has about 8 times the memory of my older one - and the price had remained unchanged at $799. No surprise there. What was surprising, after I had transferred my data over and got the new machine up and running, was to try and hook up the the internet. You see, I live in one of those pockets of Massachusetts, akin to sub-Saharan Africa or perhaps isolated Pacific atolls, where there is no available high speed internet, no cable, no wireless reception, nada. It's use a 56k modem or nothing. Actually, maybe sub-Saharan Africa does have high speed now.

I went to plug the phone jack into the back of my new computer and I discovered that there was no phone jack(!). I guess dial-up is so hopelessly old fashioned now that computer makers don't even bother to install such hardware. Along with the lack of a phone jack, I learned that my computer doesn't even have an internal phone modem, and, after talking with a guy at the computer store, learn that OSX 'Snow Leopard' does not actually 'support' a dial up modem function. It was looking like a total disaster for a while, with two computers and a snarl of wires on my desk, with the monitor having to be switched manually back and forth between computer drives, $800 in the hole with a computer I couldn't get on-line with....

Anyhow, I have since learned that the computer shop was not entirely accurate in their comment - while the new operating system does not 'support' a phone modem, if you plug in a Mac USB modem, it can actually read it just fine and connect. Of course, Mac has stopped making such outdated devices, and no store around here has one in stock, however I was able to locate one online and it is on the way to me now. My neighbor is letting me borrow his for the time being.

It's funny to think about the pace of technological change sometimes, as it is an accelerating phenomena, ala Moore's Law. My old Mac Mini went 4 years before the software started to overwhelm it's chip and memory capacity. My new one I might expect to go 2~3 years (?) before reaching the same point. That pace of change is accelerating, so I am left to wonder when the point will come where I buy a new computer and find it is out of date and unable to keep up within days of my purchase. It's a strange sci-fi becomes reality sort of world.

I'm reading a book right now by a Princeton Professor name Wolin, called "Democracy Incorporated" in which he contends, among other arguments, that the pace of technological change, a feature very much associated with the society I live in, is so rapid that it doesn't allow the previous changes to 'sink in' or be fully adopted by society. He included the 'social technology' of participatory democracy, the phenomenon of the democratically-engaged citizen, in other words, in that list of changes that never really took because they were supplanted, and continue to be supplanted, by subsequent developments. What we have right here right now is what Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism, in which the state exists to serve the needs of business and 'democracy' as such is managed like a business or other complex system- instead of an engaged citizenry, we have a passive consumer society that confuses an occasional trip to the ballot box (uh, for those that bother to make the trip) with 'democracy'. And that disengaged passivity on the part of the citizenry is exactly what the power structure would prefer for the masses - entertained, distracted, disengaged, feeling powerless yet able to scrabble amongst themselves for minor possessions. Anyhow, that's another topic, but the read is quite intriguing so far and I recommend the work, if you can stand a little bad news.

As far as the tréteau goes, I have managed to make some good progress despite the past few days. The top beam is all laid out and I have laid out the tenons and shoulders on the tops of the long braces. Through my ongoing study, I am working the 2D drawing to develop the views of the various parts and determine the required cut angles and lengths. These measurements i can then check against the 3D drawing to confirm. Through this process I have had a couple of minor breakthroughs in understanding the drawing method in the book, and have found yet more lines in the book that are mis-drawn. Again, I am surprised to have found so many mistakes in the drawing, and am left to wonder how it has come about. My latest theory is that either the drawings are copied by someone who was not Mazerolle, or perhaps the drawings are partially reconstructed from a surviving old text, where the lines had become faded and someone in recent times attempted to re-draw, making several mistakes along the way. Whatever the case, it keeps me on my toes, and I would not be surprised to find more errors in the original text in the next few days.

I have completed the drawing work on the tenons for the interior x-braces, and wanted to share some pictures. Here's a view of one x-brace, with a long side brace pair removed from the scene:


From low down at the post corner, here's another view:


I also found a pair of base lines on my drawing that were out by, oh, a few ten-thousandths from where they should have been, and this was causing weird issues with the layout of the tenons in the top beam. So I corrected the location of those lines, then redrew all the tenons and mortises for what seemed like the umpteenth time, and here is the result of that:


The top beam is ready for cut out as is now, though I am debating whether to partially or fully house the legs into the beam, and that decision will affect the layout. The housings make sense usually, as it makes for a stronger connection than the tenon alone, however with so many interconnected and cross-braced parts in this sawhorse, I wonder if it is a moot consideration.

I have to yet to complete the developed views for the various tenons and mortises where the long braces meet the lower legs, and then I can complete the layout on the long braces and move to the leg layout. After that I will deal with the short side braces, and lastly the interior x-braces, the only group of parts on this project which will all be laid out identically. The next few days will be drawing, calculating, checking, and then laying out - and then re-checking. There are 4 long braces, and only 2 of them are identical to one another - the other pair are each unique. It is a struggle to keep the parts distinct in my mind and make sure that they are laid out in their own unique way without confusing things between one and another. I've already laid out the long brace top tenons three times due to errors and mis-assumptions. I need to check and re-check that I have things right. Putting the lines in the right places remains the penultimate carpentry challenge.

--> Go to part V

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