Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gapanathi's Whistle and more

Living opposite our house on Devaparthiva Road, was one humble Iyer family.  Ramaswamy Iyer and his wife had five children. The third one was Ganapathi, a boy slightly elder to me.  He was a very talented chap and my nemesis in many games we used to play against each other.  How we used to play several games and created little toys with innocuous materials can cause wonderment today, in the world of iPads, cell phones, laptops.

The Iyer family lived in the [rented] house seen with a green door at the back. Our tenant enters our premise.  Photo may be from 2001 or so. The houses have undergone facelift since the 60s. We no longer live in this street. The Iyer family left in the early 70s. The opposite row of houses had a common wall between them!

Ganapathi was an expert player in tops.  His played with a narrow design top.  His rope was unique.  It was short and stout, which he himself had made it using other threads.  The length was so short that he would wind it in a jiffy, spin and lift it into the hand circling with the rope while still spinning. His swiftness coupled with the shortness of this rope ensured he spun the top a lot earlier than the opponent and hence end up with a win.  I would be still winding my long rope [bought from Shetty's shop on Sayyaji Road.] with Ganapathi watching me with a teasing look!  Sometimes the tip of my rope would tangle with the pivot nail and this would please him. In another game, the loser would keep his top on the ground in a drawn circle.  Others had to hit this top with theirs and spun their top in one action to dislodge it out of the drawn circle.  Ganapathi's aim was incredible and he seldom missed the target top.  His top's pivot nail was stout and sharp, meant to damage and even break the opponent's top!  He would hit very hard and deface it with deep nail marks. He was so accurate in his aim.  It was agonizing to see my defaced top but Ganapathi derived great pleasure! He ALWAYS won. He was an undoubted hero of the street.

A top from those days, cracked by time and not by Ganapathi. This is nearly how his top was like.

The big top on the right is not mine. It is a mysterious top which came rolling to our door one afternoon in the early 70s and I know not from where it came.  There appeared to be no one in the street playing! 

Only a few of these marbles are from those times, the roughened ones. 

Playing marbles, Ganapathi was very nearly invincible with his laser-sharp aim.  He played with his right hand while I was comfortable with my left [middle finger]. He stocked an enviable number of marbles he won in 4-5 beverage tin fulls!  It was testimony to his amazing skills.  He would proudly show the tin fulls when I went to his house.  When he poured the marbles out to show, the very sound of so many marbles was music!  I wanted to win like him, but it was impossible with boys like Ganapathi!  I would buy marbles, new and shiny, ten marbles for ten paisa at Shetty's shop on Sayyaji Rao Road. Ganapathi used to win most of them!  He was dynamic, elder, experienced, bold and talented.  He did not cheat, but he loved teasing.

Win he would in the little games with marbles for which matchbox labels were kept at stake. He had bundles of them to show!  All the boys lost to him.

At Gulli-danda game, the side in which he was in usually won.  In the absence of a Carrom board, he wrote the board with chalk on the floor of his house.  His sisters would join the game. It was quite a funny feeling with no 'rebounds' possible!  He was good at drawing and he used to show me his sketch book which was stitched from left over pages of old note books. I am sure he would have made that book too.

 There was a game for which we collected empty cigarette packs, folded and piled, kept in a circle and took turns to disperse out of the circle with the striker - a flat piece of stone - to win. Ganapathi would hit the target unerringly and grab all at stake kept in the circle!  Seldom did he miss.  At the game of Lagori also he was very good.

Ganapathi was adept in whistling with the fingers in different styles.  He would also make a few types with ordinary things like some bamboo pieces and bicycle tube rubber.  He had made a beautiful slingshot with which he would hit the target, usually some fruit or for fun with such aim that was truly astonishing.

Among the many other little things like those,  the one thing I still admire was his ingenuity in making a 'pea whistle'.  A real pea whistle would be like this, used by army officers, the police and sports masters.

Our genius Ganapathy made his own from real scrap. It was crude, but it worked... 'prrrreeeep... prrrrrreeeeeep'.  I tried to recall by trying to replicate the whistle 42-43 years since I saw Ganapathi's work.  I remember I had made one at that time also.  We needed an old wall calendar with its pages bound like this - with a thin tin strip.  In those days, this was the only type we had and the spring bound calendars had not arrived.

Unfold the tin strip and separate from the calendar paper. Just a length of about 4-5 inches is all that is required to make the whistle.

Flatten this portion, cut it.

Bend the piece like this.

I do not know how Ganapathi made this air-escape hole, but I punched the hole with a poker and flattened it. 

The 'mouth piece' which I had slightly rounded to blow air in was wrapped with paper to prevent air leakage from the sides.  Again, I cannot recall clearly how our genius used to make. I bent slightly at the hole for the blown air to enter the curved area that would house the 'whirring' seed.  The open sides were held closed by the thumb and another fingertip after putting the 'seed' in it.

Ganapathi used a star gooseberry seed but I found a Mirabilis jalapa plant seed [below] in my garden to serve the purpose.  

Ganapathi's whistle made a pleasing little 'prrrrreeeeep'. The seed had to be saved each time we removed the fingers from the whistle.  My latest project whistle produced 'Ssrrrssssrrrsssssss'.  Do not miss the 'r' that is the sound produced by the blown seed trapped in the gap, I need to adjust the angle of the air blow and I am sure to re-tune the true 'prrreeeeepp' some time.  
But then this is just for the idea how our genius Ganapathi did from things that one expected!  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bino-zoom for cheap camera

Thanks to my kind friend Thomas who used to lend me his Sony Mavica in 2002. This became the first digital camera I handled and this little experience helped me when another friend George gifted me a very basic camera, an Emprex, in 2006.  Not long after, another kind friend in the US presented me with a Fuji FinePix A120. 

This Emprex was the bridge between film camera and the digital era which was beginning around 2006, in India.  Obviously, quality of pictures from the Emprex were low.  There is not much one can expect from such a low priced gadget.  Here is one taken in 2006, market. 

Fuji was a slight promotion in quality. It gave good colour if not sharpness, but still it was worthy.  I had used it on my tour to Bhopal and several shots in my garden. 

The Emprex, with its 3 MP sensor and a very tiny lens, could never provide a sharp image, even with my innovative methods.  But I tried to squeeze the most out the Fuji using my own little innovations, both for taking long zoom shots and also close-ups for which, the camera was not at all equipped. It was a point and shoot camera. 

I had made a telescope in the 1970s from which I had taken the picture [ordinary film camera]of the hill top palace, miles away.  Here is the picture.

Thirty years later, I tried it with the Fuji with my 7x binocular. This is what I got.  The scratches above were for marking the area of the palace for printing only that portion.  The horizontal line is the electric cable.  B&W film negative.  Interestingly, in both photos, by coincidence, roof tiles are seen, but both different locations as we changed houses. The tree near that palace is still there. 

But still, my dream of having a zoom camera remained.  I was also trying close-ups using my own innovation from the lenses I had kept from the projector I had man-handled! Here are the lens holders I made for this close-up 'add-ons', 'hand-hold-ons' to be precise.  This was to get more magnification of the image.

I could hold one, two or three lenses in front of the camera lens, one in front of the other, in alignment. This helped, but did not give good results.  But I found my watch repairer's eye piece [seen above] to be of good use. I got vignettes on the edges using this but pictures were reasonably sharp.

Some images with the projector lens, no vignetting.

.A friend's tripod was with me for some days.  So I devised a frame to fix the binocular to it and keep the camera - the Fuji - in the exact position.  This helped alignment of the eye-piece and the camera lens.

I marked, cut and bent a stiff aluminium plate for this. I fixed the binocular to the tripod using a broken table lamp fixture.

Another gift came in the form of a Panasonic Lumix FZ8 which had amazing macro ability and 12x zoom.  With it I could go eye-to-eye with a butterfly.

This is the butterfly, a Lemon.

This is a garden pest on my thumbnail..... enlarge this thumbnail and see its legs.

I can zoom in on an object from many feet without my binocular fitting!

And zoom in to see craters on the moon.

... and see 'sun spots' on the morning sun. 

All these without any extra attachments.  There appears to be no end to technological advancements, but the fun in getting the most out of the limitations can never be paralleled.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Car bumper finds another use

A flat, solid-looking metal object, broken in the middle, was lying in the store [attic] room for many years.  When I moved house, it came with me.  I knew it was the bumper of a car.  Since this looked like an object that could be useful in some other way, I got this broken junk welded by my friend Ramas.  It continued to lie here and there.  Finally it found some re-purpose after five decades!

My late uncle Kitti had a car which he had bought for a thousand rupees.  I still wonder how he managed this huge sum in 1964-65, which was probably 5 or 6 times his salary from a small job. It was a car that had changed many hands already and at least 20+ years old.  It was, I reckon a "Morris Minor" from the 1930s vintage.  

Kitti's car was something like in the web-grab images [below], cream coloured, 4-seater, two doors. Back-seat access was by folding the front seat. 

From 'OldClassicCar'

Keep an eye on the front bumper to which the registration plate is fixed. 
That is the part being bragged here. Click on the images to enlarge.

Its registration plate bore "MYM 828".  I can remember that they used to talk about how someone had cheated Kitti with a very poor condition vehicle.  It was frequently finding itself in the repair garage.  Unable to meet the expenses Kitti sold it off for peanuts after incurring a heavy loss and landing in debt. He had reverted to his Robin Hood bicycle [1958], which I still use.
 Kitti died as a bachelor in his early 40s in 1967.  

Kitti was fond of kids. He was a bit adventurous, much to the chagrin of my grandmother. I hear that young Kitti used to clandestinely take away my g/g/father's Model T Ford car which made my grandmother anxious.

Me and Kitti at Raj Studio

 After Kitti sold this troublesome Morris Minor, the new owner had painted it red.  It was a prominent vintage car even in the 60s and attracted passersby, for its mere vintage look. "Look, Kitti's car" we used to exclaim when we saw it.  This car was on the road for a couple of more years before finally 'disappearing'. 

Did you see the bumper in the car images above?  It is actually just over a metre long, so you can imagine the width of this baby car!   

Fifty years on, this bumper gets 'unjunked', finally finding some use in my garden, of all places.  For growing small flowering vines, I placed two ladder-like structures and then connected the two on top with this bumper.  Soon, the plants from both sides will reach the top to dangle and droop.

View from above.

Close-up of one end of the rusty bumper.

This sleek object will remind me of Kitti' Morris and the short rounds he took me after he returned from work.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Plant Markers from plastic bottles

Nowadays, shampoos, hair oils, perfumes, talcs, lotions, what have you, all come in such plastic packing [as in picture above] and make way into our homes.  Once empty, a vast majority of them find no further use or reuse and have to be discarded.  But some good ones are suitable for other purposes after the original content is used up.  

I have seen many people use old Venetian Blinds for labeling their plants in the garden.  Since I cannot find the blinds here, I thought of using the spray bottles to label what I planted/sowed where. There will be so many such containers that may be handy too.  

Next time I cut up a container, I will think of more artistic patterns. There is one here that got the shape of a carrot and one like a necktie.  There will be so many options if we use our own 'recyclables'.

[Names are written with Sharpie pens.]

I hope you also noticed the 'bed dividers'.  They are granite pieces I gathered from the stone-slab cutting shop - they throw these waste pieces out in a pile for the landfills. I brought in a few and used it like this, since I cannot even think of wood on the soil due to termite menace. 

I have some spare blanks now.  

When I write the name on the top, I can still cut up that written portion later if I want to use it for other names in the next season, but the label will be slightly shorter. Squeeze the maximum out of it! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tennis racquet handles for chair

[Click to enlarge]

Out of the four tennis racquets which were used by my grandfather in his prime [pre-1950], two were in very poor shape having weak 'necks' and had become excellent scraps!  When I started playing tennis in 1984, I had thought of using one of the other two in better shape, but none was good enough at all. There was no point in keeping the two really bad ones anymore. So I had separated the handles from the heads by cutting at the necks. The two handles were good and strong. They had gone to the scrap-wood box.  

Around 1990, I had taken up clearing up scrap wood that had accumulated. Some odds and ends were chosen when I took up this little project of making a small chair from such materials. The tennis racquet handles were just right for the front legs!  See carefully in the picture above. The curved back rest was from an old broken chair.  The seat is made of two pieces of plywood from some parcel box. It measures just about 20 inches to the top of the back rest. Kid chair! 

This became one of my favourite furniture.  The children loved it. It became a study chair for them for some years - with a folded bed linen for a pillow on it.  It can take a lot of weight and is quite sturdy.  I have used only glue [Fevicol] and screws. 

It is a very handy furniture even for reaching the fan for cleaning or replacing tubes or bulbs.  It is suitable as a 'step-up' stool, in the absence of a proper ladder!  It is a circus scene when I kept 4, one above the other to do some work with the lights!  Took a sample scene for this post.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Upcycling a Roly-Poly Bell

I have posted a replica of this piece in Mysorean Musings blog also.

In the mid 1960s, my grandfather handed over Twenty Rupees to his 'junior lawyer', Srinivasachar who was going to Madras [now Chennai] to bring some good toys or play things for my young brother.  Twenty rupees was a substantial sum in those days that could have got some really good toys but Srinivasachar returned with two Roly poly toys for a little fellow who had long outgrown the type of toy, despite knowing how old this boy was!  What a silly selection from him, the elders used to remark.  Even I thought so at that small age! The dolly toys went up into the showcase right away.  They were only taken out and given to little babies for playing when they visited our house.  The above is one of the two surviving toys, and was useful when babies of our own arrived, more than 25 years after Srinivasachar purchased.

The bell tones from the toy as it went 'weebly-wobbly' impressed me for their absolute pleasantness.  I badly wanted to see what was producing those bell tones inside.  I held it up against strong sunlight with a hope of seeing its shadow in it but could not.  The two 'hemispheres' were joined together, but it was out of my limits to attempt to open and close back. The only option was to break open, as was my wont.  

My joy knew no bounds when there was a crack near the joint, after many years, in the late 80s.  It did not matter how it developed, but it was a great delight to me.  Since there were two roly polys, I did not mind breaking one to satisfy my long standing curiosity!  Finally I gave in to the temptation.   What a joyful experience it was to break open with my own hands and lay them on the ting-tong mechanism!  In fact, I wanted to see this from the day it came!!

Picture: Beautiful!  It is something similar to those from a jukebox!
The ring is suspended in the centre to strike the steel wire-gongs when the doll changes its angle even slightly.  Different lengths will produce different frequency sounds. Absolute melody!

Now what to do with it?  It would not work outside the sealed doll!  So I wanted to do something just to bring back those bell tones.  I found that a packing cardboard cylinder made a perfect fit to this.  I closed its two ends, suspended the striker ring at its proper place and lo, ting tong was back, albeit with softer sound due to the cardboard.  
Roly poly bell was now in a different shell! 

After a few years it was baby time.  I discovered that the baby was also attracted to this sound.  So I suspended my new cylindrical creation to the cradle in such a way that when the baby beat her legs, it was serving like an alarm bell.  In this picture [click on it to magnify] it is kept on top of the cradle in idle position. This is the only photo I have.  It has to be left freely suspended outside to 'activate'.  This was another project I enjoyed thoroughly.

Someone gave her a new roly poly for her first birthday and this produces even better sound.

I am again curious to know the difference in technology from the 60s to the 90s! 

May ting tong ting tong.

The beautiful and meaningful song ಆಡಿಸಿ ನೋಡು ಬೀಳಿಸಿ ನೋಡು ಉರುಳಿ ಹೋಗದು from the movie Kasturi Nivasa features this weebly wobbly toy.  See this clip.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Baby Net Bed and Vice Horse Table

In the early 60s, my uncle was running a book circulating library in our locality.  It was just a shed-like single room.  It had a wooden board hung outside.  The library was situated on Jayalakshmi Vilas Road.  The library had to be closed down in the mid 1960s mainly due to his own poor health. He eventually died in 1967.

This board lay around here and there, on top of book almirahs, etc. and of no use.  It was in the store room when I picked it up for my small wood projects which I had started to make in the late 80s. 

The  board is beautifully painted and is made of a single-plank of wood.

It had border beading which I removed.  From waste pieces of wood I gave this board 4 legs.  A short table was now ready.  It is just about 15 inches high and is very convenient to sit and do certain small carpentry works. It was a perfect extension for a low cot which I was using for some years.  The cot was a foot short in length which this new table made up.  Whenever I needed it for work I was taking it out from there.  

It serves as a very good 'Horse Table' as it is called.  It became a "Vice Horse Table" after I fixed a vice to it and has become a very important thing in my 'workshop'. 

Now the second part of this post.

The long and nice border beading pieces of that board came in useful for making a Baby Net Bed which I made in 1994.  

Hanging Net Beds for babies were new at that time.  I wanted one for our little one, but its price tag was a wee too much.  Why not I make one at home?  I knew the materials like tape, zipper and net were available in shops and I had the necessary cloth at home.  I had mentally copied the design and bought the materials. The border beading was just perfect for this - see them protruding a little bit in the picture below - I did not want to cut it down. There was not much trouble in finding the two other shorter pieces to make the rectangle frame.  What was in the market was of metal.   

Left: Baby in the net; Right: Taken out now, for sharing it in this blog.

It was fun making it and it certainly costed me less while I used some available materials at home. 
The little one enjoyed its time in it with no hassles of insects while it also served as a cradle. 

There are several attractive varieties available in the market now.