Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lamp shade from a bowl

 I wrote about one Dr.Rama Shastry in my previous post about a Chess board.  Whenever I went to him to play Chess, my attention used to get attracted towards a lamp he had fixed at the edge of his vintage desk that had 1000 draws [exaggerating].  It was a simple lamp with a bulb holder, which was also the clip, something like what we see on writing clipboards.  The shade was adjustable to any angle and without the bulb it was a separate unit.  I found it very very interesting.  It used the curvature of the spherical bulb for tilting to any desired angle as work was done on a desk.  It was a fantastic little lamp that tickled my ingenuity!

I wanted to make one like it for my study table too!  There was a corner shelf fixed to the wall above my study desk and the location suited for using it. The advantage of this lamp was that it asked no space on the desk as table lamps do, but all it wants is something to cling on! 

Dr.Shastry's model was an old factory-manufactured unit and I needed something similar.  So I picked up a clip from a clipboard that was discarded.  Removed the two rivets from the old board, fixed the clip to another customized piece of hardboard.  Then, I fixed an old brass bulb holder to it with small nuts and bolts and a hole for the wire to pass through. 

This became my favourite lamp for many years until I found that it was no longer required for the desk.  I made a hole in the hardboard and hung it above the sewing machine for additional lighting.  It is still in use, 36 years on.  In the above picture, I have made a shade out of a discarded aluminum rectangular bowl. This was the second such shade.

Let me tell how I had made the first one.  There was an old ceramic coated bowl lying in the attic/store room along with other junk. I thought this was the most suitable one, even if I made a hole and damaged it. The spring-clip fixed to it will cling on the bulb and the round shape of the bulb will make it tilt to any direction and the spring tension will make it stay there.  That is the beauty of this design!  The shade must not be too heavy otherwise, it will tilt down by its weight.  That was the right weight too.  

I made the spring from a damaged bicycle wheel spoke I had in my tool section. I made an 'eye' to fix it with a nut to the bowl on the inside.  Ordinary metal wires will not suit for springs.  

This was one of my many enjoyable little projects that is serving me well even today.

Some more boards for games

I had written in an earlier post how I made my Scrabble Board and letters. This one is about a few other things.

A thought had zipped past like lightning many decades ago..... oooh, I'm that old to speak of  past decades, eh, eh??... about me making a carrom board!  It was a highly impossible project to even think of with no material, no tool and no resource.  Yet, I still wonder why that crossed my mind, despite we having a nice vintage carrom board with wide pockets.  Anyway... and for good, that thought never again returned!  May be, may be, the background for that was from the early 1960s when I had seen my senior friend opposite our house, Ganapathi having drawn carrom board lines on the floor with chalk, using seeds and some bottle caps as a striker!  They did not have a real board.  Yet, they still could play their own brand of carrom!  

Let me tell just a few words about this Ganapathi. He was a genius according to me. He used to make his own thread/rope to play the top - it was short and thick. The shortness of it used to win him games as quickness to play the top was a key factor to decide the winner!  He had 500 marbles that he had won from friends who played on the streets and footpaths. I used to envy his talent because I could never win against him, any game.  He was always the winner in street games.  In gulli-danda also he was an expert, not so much in street cricket. May be I will have a separate post on this fellow, later.

Let me share what I have made as I grew up to high school and during college days. Street children used to gather and play various games, both indoor and outdoor in those days. There were many games and many children too!  The street was abuzz with activity, unlike now. Come summer holidays, it was only play, play and play. I would like to emphasize that they were days when even the 'Calculator' had not been seen here!

My grandfather had bought me a 'Chinese Checkers'   It was a very interesting game. The 'original' board was torn out due to frequent use as it was made of cheap cardboard and fitted in a square box.  So I made one myself, taking a thick file of cardboard from my grandfather's office.  Drilling holes in it was very tricky.  I had by then, made my own hand drill, copying it from a carpenter who had made windows for a new room. The holes had to be smooth to insert and remove the coloured plastic pegs during the game. Finally, it came off nicely and we played many games thereafter also till the time we grew old for it.

I have been playing Chess since about 1970 or so.  Then towards 1977, I was playing a lot of Chess games with my classmates, street mates and particularly one old man by name Dr.Rama Shastry of the famous "Liver House" [our opposite house].  He was a brilliant player and I had the good fortune of defeating him only once. It still remains one of only two feathers in my chess cap. The other was defeating Masood Hussain [brother of old classmate Zakir - both sons of the famous historian Prof.B.Sheik Ali] once. Masood was also a fine player.  When I visited his house now and then, these opportunities for playing chess used to arise. It was a learning experience.  It was much before the TV a.k.a. Idiot Box era, so people had lots of nice things to do, really!

Dr.Rama Shastry had his chess board entirely lined with cloth to increase durability, while it made the black and white squares still visible.  He had drawn lines in pen to demarcate.  Paper boards used to wear off quickly.  What he had made was like the plastic lamination we use these days.  So I wanted to make one like his.  The cardboard chess board we had at home was smallish and it was cumbersome to arrange the wooden chessmen on the small squares.  It was from him that I learnt that the white square at the corner had to be to the players' right side.

There was a rattan stool that had a square top. I had a few pieces of hardboard left over from some of  my father's 'renovative' projects. Two of them suited the top, without too much cutting.  There was some black paint and some white paint and there was my will, time and material for a chessboard that would last long and take wear and tear also without losing its utility as a stool. Once painted, I fixed the two halves on the top and there it was!  The players could sit on opposite sides on smaller stools and play.  

When I see the date I've painted, I can't believe it was almost 35 years ago!

For other traditional games, the floor or even some paper or cardboard was needed to make a board.  Without a piece of chalk or something to write on the floor, we were lost when we wanted to play the game of 'Chowka Baara'. So I had made two boards - one having 5x5 squares and one with 7x7 squares.  The former was most popular. I had used a cardboard that came with the packing of one of my grandfather's new shirt!  It is still there I think.  But here is MS Paint drawing to show the 5x5.

[This is a web-grab image]

This is my 7x7 board.

The Cowrie Shells [brown ones] used as dice.  For the 5 square, we use 4 shells, for the 7 square game, we use 6 shells. Observe the wear and tear of the shells - they have been used for a number of years!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

PET bottles for rain water spout, etc.

Recycling PET bottles can be fun, if only we have some plan for it. I had the need to turn the rainwater down spout to suitable angles which the ready 'L'bow, 'T' or '45 degree' units do not fit in.  So what I did?  I took my favourite 'black scissors' and cut the right size circular hole or openings at wanted places.  Of course, I had to mark the exact place and shape with the pen to cut.  I first cut well inside the line because the joint has to be 'unloose'!  The bottle must hold the pipe firmly.  Tight fitting, in simpler words. 

The greatest advantage with these bottles is that you can use it to the angle you desire.  I have used the bottle here because I did not want to cut the pipe length that was already there.  That way, even if it is removed, the pieces are not wasted.  If I had cut the pipe and took it to the edge, I could have used a ready L'bow but I did not want to buy a new one - I did not have it with me. The vertical pipe rests on a wooden piece on the balcony floor and so it is steady.  In addition I have also tied a piece of wire to the parapet to hold it firmly in place.

These bottles are very useful collection 'pots'.

I have used a bottle cut at both ends and a hole in the centre to fit the pipe to act as an L'bow.

Cutting the bottles is very easy, provided you are careful enough to make a neat and slightly 'inner measurement' cut so that a pipe can be properly inserted.

Here, the spout from the old balcony was of zinc and it had rusted away over nearly a century [that's how old the house is].  It was so brittle.  Connecting an 'L'bow or pipe to it was out of question.  So, I have placed a large bottle which was cut to custom requirement and placed there to collect and divert water through the pipe into the rain water filter. See picture below.

 Old asbestos pipe fitted to the balcony terrace, unusual size which is too large for the 75mm or too small for the 90mm 'L'bow. So, cut up a bottle.. 

 A large bottle to collect - like a funnel.  I had also put a piece of sponge into it, but it soon got clogged - too much dirt comes down from above our house which is on the main road which is busy with heavy traffic.  So, fugitive dust is too much load for the filters.  Removed the sponge as this rain waterwas collected only for flushing bathroom or toilet. 

Large bottle again, I used before. Crude methods, but it suited that place, which is now demolished and renovated.


I have used the bottle for other purposes also.  I had to find a way to clean the dirt without removing the water from the large barrel.  So, I chose a 500ml PET bottle [soft drink] that has a smooth surface without ridges and squeezable.  Some bottle designs wont suit this purpose.  Cut a hole in the cap to tightly pass a semi-stiff pipe into the bottom of the bottle.  I use this to suck up dirt from the bottom without emptying the barrel.  First squeeze out some air, hold it squeezed, insert the bottle into the water, suck up the dirt from the bottom slowly releasing the squeeze.  We can make designs in the dirt also there!   In fact, this is like a laboratory wash bottle.

This is an old picture.  When the bottle cracks from repeated squeezing, replace the bottle!  I have replaced 4-5 in as many years. Some are durable.

This is the latest one in use.  See how dirt sediments at the bottom and how it looks when disturbed and shaken.

The bottom half of a cut up bottle can be used for many many things. I've used one to fold and store digital camera cables.  We can also make rings to hold in folded cables.

One of the most interesting applications of the bottle I came across is this 'Water light bulb'! Watch the two and half minute video. Another person somewhere has 'repurposed' a bottle into a broom. [click on link on how to make it].  'Repurpose' is a new word that has started to get popular!

This image did the rounds on e-mail - bottle slippers used by African tribals.

Necessity is the Father of Creativity!

Monday, May 21, 2012


We had not heard about the Vuvuzela [click on the Wiki link] until the Football World Cup that was held in South Africa in 2010. In the link you can hear a short audio clip of how it sounds [scroll to the bottom of that page]. The link has some interesting information about the Vuvuzela, its use, its misuse, its controversy regarding use by spectators at stadia etc.  Let me not go into that much.

I had cut up a half litre PET bottle for something and the top half had to be thrown.  Thrown?  NO!  This was at the same time during the FIFA World Cup and I was reading about the Vuvuzelas in newspapers.  *Idea*! 

Without me doing anything more, this piece of the bottle now became the vuvuzela!  It was created unintentionally as a 'waste by product' and before throwing, I tried 'vuvulelaing'.  It worked - more like a megaphone than the vuvuzela.  It has no real use at home and at best I may later use it as a funnel to pour something into some container!  But to satisfy myself in the 'heat of the FIFA moment' and to participate [silently] in the vuvuzela movement, I wrote on it with a marker pen 'vuvuzela'.  That was it. 

It reminded me of blowing of the conch shell. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kitchen knife holder

Storing the kitchen knives in our kitchen was a requirement that was asking for long. Storing them in a tall vessel was cumbersome.  So I decided to make my own holder that would go on the wall beside the wash basin. All I required was some wood and nails.  Wood pieces were available in my wood-junk area.  Flat 'beading' left over piece was available, just the perfect dimension, except the length which I cut down. I required another fat piece to go at the back to have some gap between wall and knife handle to enable easy pick-up and keep-back. I need not tell that this is a vegetarian knife holder!  Bread knife, vegetable knife, butter knife!

I made 3 small pieces from the flat beading and kept them as 'spacers'. I placed two at both ends and one in the centre.  So I had enough gap to insert the blade and the handle rested above. Hanging it like this also enables water to drip down after washing. To add value to the project, I simply drove in a few thin nails on the outside and spaced them to hang small scissors that are very handy to open plastic-wrapped packets etc. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Plate holder in the kitchen

There are plastic racks and holders with slits available.  They are designed to keep on the kitchen platform. To save space on the platform, I thought of something that could hold a lot of plates on the wall itself.  I had some good zinc wire that was pretty strong, removed from a clothesline that had snapped or replaced - I cannot remember exactly, but that does not matter.  I had suitable stuff on hand.  When that happens, half the project is over. Because we spend a lot of time searching for the right thing.

I bent the wire in the manner you can see in the picture, leaving it longer at the back where the two ends are intertwined. In that joining place, I have made provision for the nail/screw.  I have also joined another piece of wire across to prevent sideway expansion.  Since this is a tiled wall, I have used screw, just one.  See how it has taken the weight without sagging much. I was so delighted when it took that weight. Keeping the plates in the stand and removing them are both easy.  All other plates will stay in place.  The stiffness of the wire in the front and a slight bend in the curve will enable the plates to stay straight. This was another satisfying project that has proved to be very useful.

And I add that even if there are only a few plates, they stay in place.

Garden tray

Some years ago, I had cut the top portion of a 200 litre plastic barrel to have an open mouth for easy cleaning and access to water. This cut off portion was lying around as junk in the garden yard.  It had no other use other than as a crude lid for a smaller barrel.  It was too crude and crooked in flatness to use it happily.  So I did not prefer it. Once I was doing some digging the earth and had to shift some soil to another place and had nothing else in sight and was a bit lazy to go in and bring the circular tray from inside. So I took this and shifted the soil.  Holding it with the load in front of my stomach was irksome. The sharp edge seemed to hurt.

Necessity is the mother of invention.  Reminding it again!

What to do to stop it from hurting?  It was also too wide and too far from the stomach to hold comfortably.  *Brilliant idea* flashed. Bend the hurting part!

I took it into the kitchen, lit the gas stove and heated the portion where I wanted the bending.  I slowly kept folding it till it reached the desired angle and took it away from the flame.  I was also ensuring that the plastic was not heated in one spot lest it melted and caught fire.  Immediately, I  poured some cold water on it to cool and harden it back. 

After a few minutes I got back to garden work, using the newly shaped tray.  Yahoooo!   It felt really wonderful. As it turned out, the slight curve at the place I bent, fitted the curve of my stomach and I could now rest against it so that carrying the weight was easier and the load got distributed to the stomach.  I am happily using it in my garden ever since. 

Banana Hanger

[Web grab image]

I had seen a Banana Hanger in my uncle Deekshit's house in Bangalore, similar to the one pictured above.  It was a dining-table-top model. It was so beautiful.  I too wanted to make one as there was a need for one at home.  We have no dining table as we prefer the floor in the old system that existed prior to the 'dining table era'.  So my design of the hanger had to be different.  I had purchased a small length of high quality steel wire that was very strong.  It was for making a holder for reading books.  There was a piece of this wire preserved carefully as this was a bit expensive.

I had to use the wall to hang bananas. There was one suitable for this in the kitchen. After choosing the spot, I went in search for a suitable wooden piece to be fixed there.  I found an odd piece in the 'wood scrap' box.  Made needed holes, one for fixing the screw to the wall and one for the wire hook to hold bananas.  I bent the wire like the 'U' with a little tongue and fixed it to the wooden piece and painted it.  This piece of the 'tongue' once had almost pierced my eye as I bent to pick up something on the platform underneath.  So I put a wooden bead to cover the sharpish end. 

The Banana Hanger is such a useful thing to have in homes! Hanging the bunch by a hook is the best method.

Badminton racket duster

What do most people do when a badminton racket breaks? Discard.  But here, no!  There is still some use for it, if not playing badminton. The one in the picture is an old racket made of wood. I have made one of aluminum handle that has snapped similarly.  I think all these rackets snap at the neck, on most occasions. Since this was of wood, I sawed off the 'head'. The handle serves as a fine grip too.  Just tie a square piece of cloth of comfortable size and tie its centre to the broken part of the racket.  Some nice sanding may be necessary to prevent the cloth from wearing off quickly on use. It is light in weight and very handy. I think all houses must have one 'handle duster'. My friend's father Mr.Nikam, who owned a handicraft shop called it as 'Jataknee' and this was an inseparable part of their business paraphernalia.  So it is in almost all shops in the market place as dust is an inseparable part of daily life.  Once I made one and I realized how useful and handy this can be and IS, even at home.  I have since kept one in each room, if not of a badminton handle, but a suitable stick would suffice.  Making the groove to tie the cloth is crucial because when at work, it moves at  high speed. If the tying is loose, the cloth separates and flies off from the handle. 

Desk paper weights and note clips

On my boss' desk, there lay a particular little item made of wood.  Whenever I went there, I used to see it curiously. There was a biggish paper clip fixed to a cuboid block of rosewood. It was little memento given to him at some conference/meet. It served as a weight to prevent papers under it from flying away [mostly from fan breeze] while it also held smaller pieces of official notes and scribbled paper securely.

This paper-weight-clip was 'makeable' by me!

I had some pieces of wood at home.  One particular piece suited this little project. It was a portion of an old shelf that was protruding upwards and this was coming in the way of keeping my metal trunk in which I used to keep clothes.

For the clip, suitable wire was needed.  Ordinary wire was out of question as it is not strong. Paper clips like these require some tension which comes from basic manufacture of the wire.  There was an old calendar which had punched holes and was spring bound.  It had a stiff wire at the top running through the plastic spring.  This wire was for hanging.  There was a small curve provided at the centre for the nail.  I knew this was not ordinary wire. I immediately went working on it. When I used my plier, my guess was confirmed.  It was a strong steel wire.  It perfectly suited the need of the minute!  Bent it carefully and brought it to the shape of a paper clip.  A long portion was kept down to insert it into the wooden block to which I drilled a hole.  The clip had to fit in tight into the block.  It came off well!

Some years later, my boss retired.  The new boss did not want a few things his predecessor used on his desk.  So certain things were kept aside. A few items like a pen stand and glass paper weights were taken by some colleagues.  I took my favourite.

I was tempted to make another one.  This time, from a broken golf club [wood] that my grandfather used in golf-playing days in the 1940s and 50s. I gave a pen holder to it too, for free!

Wall Clock from Trophy Shield

My grandfather was an active, renown, all-round and true sportsman in his lifetime. He would have been 116 had he been alive now. He was at his peak in the 1920s and 30s in which period he had won many trophies in various sports, especially Tennis.  To display all his wonderful and cherished trophies and medals, he had a fine rosewood showcase made, probably in the 1940s. But before that, he must have been keeping the trophies in some almirah.  The subject for this post is the rosewood stand you see in thse pictures here. The picture on the left must be from early 1930s and the one on the right where he is older must be in the late 1940s. 

The rosewood stand is used to display his beautiful medals he had won in his college days [esp. Presidency College, Madras].  

The stand must have been some trophy shield he had won in some event, going by the shape of it.  This is just a guess.  After he had made that showcase, all those medals had gone in to be hung on little brass hooks. So this rosewood plate was dumped at the top of a law book almirah and it had collected a lot of dust! Nobody reached there as often as me, in the 1970s and 80s. 

I wanted to do something out of it, but could not think any idea. In 1991, there was a need for a Wall Clock at home. I wanted to sparingly use our century old Ansonia Clock and so I used to rest it for some weeks and then make it work for some weeks, just to extend its life and reduce wear and tear.

By then, Quartz Movements had arrived and had been found reliable, successful, accurate, cheap and easy on maintenance.  In Mysore, good movements [the electronic clock machine is called 'movement'] were not easily available. I knew this because of my little knowledge in watch repair.  In that connection, I used to visit a watch spare shop [mechanical watches] and I got this hint from the owner, late Bhageerath, who had become familiar to me.

At the time, a colleague who was in Delhi for a number of years had joined us on transfer. He was well known to me.  I knew these clock movements of good quality were available in Delhi.  So I requested him to get me one on his next visit there, if he could.  He kindly obliged and got me one pretty soon.  It cost Rupees forty five.  I had already planned and decided that this rosewood plank would serve as a nice wall clock.

The movement was ready for my new clock.  I brought down the plank, removed the hooks and hinge at the back and cleaned it thoroughly. It was a beautiful piece!  

The movement had to be fitted to the back. So I made a careful groove to 'embed' it properly. I had already gathered plastic letters discarded from an old set. I had some reflector tape to mark the minutes.

Marking of the minutes and placement of the 'hour numbers' had to be done very precisely in the perfect circle.  I marked the circle and spots where these tiny 'minute stickers' [cut with a sharp blade] would be stuck. I also stuck some white sticker to the hands of the clock to make visibility really good. It was a stand out as it turned out!  It was such a joy to see the clock on the wall, ticking. Gaudily I put my name on it. Such was the joy!

Twenty one years on, the "Newben" movement has stopped working.  That it worked for 21 years continuously is something in itself.  It had to retire.  Now it is time for a replacement movement.  It will work again, soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Two Aeroplanes of Balsa Wood

The house upstairs had a tenant.  The tenant's relative was staying with them for his studies in this city.  His nickname was 'Gunda'.  He was in college and I had just entered high school. He was a cadet in the National Cadet Corps and was in the Air Wing Section.  He used to make areoplane models at home as part of the projects and training imparted there. He also had a tiny petrol engine the size of a computer mouse, which he fitted to his model and flew it in the field along with other cadets.  Since he knew I was interested in watching the models fly, he sometimes used to inform me the time. So I went on my bicycle to the field [Maharaja's College] less than a kilometre away to watch. Some others also came with their models.  The model plane was harnessed to a long string which was held by the 'flier' and flown around him in a circle.

The plane took off aggressively....brrrrrrrr...... and was [and  had to be] carefully grounded when it went.... phuttut, phut.....phut....phut... ......phut, which meant that the petrol in its tiny tank exhausted. There was no such thing as electronic remote control in those days. It was fully manual. They refilled the tank and started it again. It was fun to watch those 3-feet wing-span models with rubber wheels.  It was something like kite-flying.  What was not fun to watch was when sometimes these cute little models crash landed due to design/modeling/handling flaws.  Once crashed, it was nearly unusable, except its engine.  Aero modeling and flying seemed to be a precision art in themselves.

Gunda had many scrap pieces of this Balsa Wood [very light in weight and colour also] left over in his room upstairs and I had seen it, because I used to stand and watch him do some minor adjustments for his model. This wood was rationed at the Air Wing Base here and was not freely available.  So I would pester him to get me some pieces as I too wanted to make a showcase model.  Me flying it was out of question because it required technical knowledge about areo modeling. I remember he used the popular glue of those days 'Quick Fix' and they came in collapsible tubes. He needed quite a lot of them!

When I got some scrap pieces from him, I got to work on making my own aeroplane!  In magazines, I was fond of looking at images of aeroplanes. I needed something as a base design.  I had seen in a distant relative's  house in Hassan during our tour, a model kept on the desk in his house-office. It had impressed me as a 9 year old. This came to my mind, but was ruled out. So I chose a particular image in some magazine.  It was an Air France Concorde.  I am sure you have heard about it. If not, click on this.

I simply liked its very look.  The word 'supersonic' itself thrilled me! It is such a magnificent bird!

This is a real model, in flight - a web grab image - to compare it with what I did, looking at a magazine picture.

The balsa wood pieces also suited its design. Carefully I cut up the wood.  I did not have a saw or any tool in those days.  I had sand paper and my father's shaving blade.  I cut the wood with the blade and smoothened the wood with sand paper in the end.  

 I could not replicate the exact proportions or the beautiful 'droop nose' of the original.

Since the work on this Concorde Project came off really well and made me happy, I painted it white and copied the windows etc. from that image.  As I mentioned, my creation was only meant for our showcase where even today, it has a special place.  My model is 'wheel less'. 

I mounted it on a mosquito coil stand. 

From other pieces, on another day, I made one more simpler model which now hangs in my room, swaying in the breeze. I took it out on our 'runway' for this picture.

And even posed it against the sky for a 'real look'!

Gunda left for his parents' house after his study in a couple of years by about 1974-5.  I know not where he is, close to 40 years hence. These two models are kept in his memory.

My Air France Concorde's value jumped a few notches when in reality, the original took its final flight of its life in 2003.

Scrabble set from cardboard

I vaguely remember some game called 'word building' when I was quite young.  Later when I was finishing high school, I got to know the game of Scrabble through my street mate Shankar.  He came from an illustrious  and intellectual family.  His grandfather was a Priest in the Royal Palace.  Veda Brahma Gundavadhani, a great scholar who was also featured in Kannada Magazine Kasturi in the issue of March 2010.  His grand daughter had compiled it.

Shankar's father was G.Sachidananda, son of Gundavadhani.  He was a Hindi Professor in the Mysore University.  He was another intellectual also proficient in English and Mathematics. He used to write maths problems in chalk on the floor of his living room [cement floor] and solve them while discussing with Shankar and his brothers.  "Braininess" seemed to run in the family.  

Shankar grew up in such environment.  He too was quite brainy.  They had a Scrabble set with them and when I went there many times, I used to find a group including his neighbours engaged in Scrabble. Sachidananda used to show his vocabulary and the total score of the games was very high which meant all of them played well! 

Shankar used to bring this set to our house and some of us friends used to play.  We played more in the summer vacation. This was in the mid 70s.  When he took the set home, when we [younger brother] wanted to play, it was difficult to borrow each time, as we did not have Scrabble with us, nor was it available in the city in any shop.  So what to do?  Make one myself!  Another new project had arrived!

Around the same time, my grandfather's law books had been given away after his death.  Many other old books [from my great grandfather's time] that were totally unnecessary were also being sold off to increase shelf space.  In culling out the unwanted ones, I found many nice hard bound books that had to be sold. The binding was old but neat. I had separated them and kept them aside [there were many!] for some later use. 

I set about making our own Scrabble set.

Making the board [copy from Shankar's] was easy, but how do I make the letters?  These card board pieces were perfect. How do I cut it neatly and uniformly?  I had the carpenter's chisel and mallet that my late uncle had and I knew how to use it. Lo, it worked reasonably well.  I then wrote the letters and scores on each one of them using felt pens.  I also made the shelf [see in the pic below] - four of them.  It was from the left over pieces of Balsa Wood from my Aeroplane project. 

 Board, letters and shelf from balsa wood

Cardboard letters I made

We played a number of games with it.  While picking the letters from the bag, these did not make the sound that Shankar's plastic letters made.  It was silent picking!  

Many years later, I requested my childhood friend, Srinivas to bring me a Scrabble Set from America where it was available and of good quality.  He was kind enough to oblige me. My children have played with both these sets.

 Scrabble Set from Srinivas

 Beautifully cut wooden, embossed letters - from Milton Bradley

Shankar introduced me to..

and I must remember him in this post because we had many hours of loud laughing [also ROFLOL at times] during play, much to the 'annoyment' of my grandmother who wanted us to stop laughing.  Ask me why we laughed?  We used to make funny, non existent words from the letters we had got on our shelves!  It was great fun!  This 'funtainment' also helped me get to know a lot of new words as we consulted the Dictionary after we made the word!

Trash has given us an appetite for art.  -- Paulene Kael.
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Alva Edison

Kerosene Lantern Goes Electric!

In our store room in the old house, there was this kerosene lantern hung hung from a nail in the wall, dusty.  It had a wick inside, but I wondered why it was kept away.  We had other kerosene lamps in use as electricity used to be cut off even in those days.  I cleaned it with the intention of using it.  When I filled kerosene into the tank, I saw slow seepage from a couple of very tiny slits. I put some sealant, but the situation did not get better.  The seepage continued. So I thought there is no point in using it at all.

After some days, suddenly the 'bulb' in my brain got lit, the same way we see in comic illustrations when a brilliant idea gets flashed.  Why not 'electrify' it?  I fitted a bulb holder after removing the wick system. The holder actually matched the place, much to my delight and no extra work was needed. 

This "lamptern" was hung above the staircase balcony with a 'Zero Watt' [actually 15w] bulb inside.  The burning filament inside the slightly milky bulb poorly imitates the flame from the flat wick. I could have made it neater to somewhat conceal the wire, but I felt it was not so much necessary, given the place it was hung.

This is a borrowed image just to show the flame in the lantern.

Speaking of kerosene lamps, there is a collector of such lamps in Mysore, by name Padmanabha.  I had met him once about ten years ago in his house, following an exhibition of his lamps at Rotary Club shortly before.  He lives by Sonar Street in a small house.  I wondered where he kept so many of his collection that requires extremely careful handling and storage. In fact, he had dedicated one floor of the house for his hobby.  See this video from TV9, a local channel.  

 I may have some stuff about kerosene lamps myself, but that will be for another post.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hand held letter weighing machine

The above image from net.

In my office, there used to be one Nagaraja who was serving as helper.  He left us many  years ago after he retired. He used to assist his boss of another department [before he came to us] in many things including mailing his boss' correspondence.  His boss used to tour abroad a lot.  

This was in the 1980s when I used to be in the hobby of penfriendship and writing letters to various International Radio Stations [it was another hobby].  Mailing letters to friends and radio stations was a very frequent business. To be within the minimum range of 20 grams per envelope, I needed a balance to weigh the envelope.  Sometimes, I had put an extra picture card or a sheet of paper in the envelope and that exceeded 20 grams and and I had to pay postage for the next slab, even if it was 22 grams since the envelope had been closed and stuck.  It pinched! 

This Nagaraja knew about my hobby as I used to give him my mails also for mailing to save myself from going to the post office.  He frequented the PO and so I also used to get postage stamps from him.  He also used to  happily do this service for many in the organization.  He was such a fine helpful man.  I have to remember him in this post and that is the least tribute I can give. People did not call him Nagaraja, but often called him by his initials K.T., because this 'Nagaraja' name is very common, like Smith!  Nagaraja would return the exact amount of change as was his wont and also ask if there was any shortage.  He had that strict discipline, even if it was his boss. 

His boss had given him a little hand-held letter weighing machine.  He had showed it to me once. It was made in Japan and was so beautiful.  I wanted to search on the web if it was available to show here, but I got only that one above which does not resemble KT's machine.

As was my wont, I wanted to copy it and make one for myself!

KT was kind enough to give that to me for a few days.  I needed  some thin and stiff material to manufacture this. I found a small aluminum sheet in my junk box that suited this project.  This was only to give me a hint if my envelopes were within 20 grams or exceeded it, to save postage! 

I started working on it.  The machine was ready, but the tricky part was to mark the scale.  How do I do it?  I knew the exact weight of some coins.  Fixing the coin or coins to the clip meant for holding the to-be-weighed envelope, I carefully marked, verified, confirmed the place where I had to scratch a line and the digits.  I did it by using a nice needle. For the counter-weight, I had a fly wheel from my childhood toy car. The clip [now rusted] was from some discarded identity card holder.

This is what I replicated.  Picture below.  Its accuracy is reasonable, enough to guide me before I go to the PO. Of course, nowadays, mailing has become minimal with the advent of Internet. I have even used this to get an idea of weight of some heirloom gold jewelry. 

I still use it, 25-27 years on and handle it carefully - as it is of aluminum!

This machine is dedicated to my late colleague, K.T.Nagaraja.

Cut pipe key holder

I did not want to use wood. It is easy. So I thought of something else.  This piece [full round] of pipe left over from the sanitary work was ready to be thrown away as junk.  But no.  I cannot throw.  I had to 'unjunk' it with something. I had nice old brass hooks.  I  thought why not cut it up. Exact half will render it difficult to nail it to the wall. It was a 110 mm diameter pipe.  So, I chose to cut at the place where I get a smaller piece that is less than half the diameter.  This way, the place where I want to nail it will be nearer to the wall.  Now it was ready to make holes for hooks.

Exact places were marked where the hooks had to be screwed in. Also made two holes for the nails that were to be driven into the wall to fix this key holder.  Even screws will work, but in my case, nails were enough. 

Presto, the key holder was ready. From time to time, cleaning the top half of this is a must as it collects dust - no exception.  But the hollow of the pipe has to be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner.  This is the only disadvantage. But this hole also can be covered to prevent dust entering.  But I have left it open.

Utility of refill cartons of beverages

The last thing that comes to mind is throwing away a thing.  Certain people have this urge to recycle, re-purpose or reuse many things.  In America 'yard sale'/'garage sale' is common.  That way, things get to be reused.  In our country it is a different scenario.  We find all kinds of 'repairmen'.  Even junk is exchanged in some places, which I came to know while browsing something else:  It's an interesting website encouraging junk exchange!

My desk is awfully messy in this picture.  We clean the computer desktops but postpone clearing up our wooden desktops!  It was organized many days after that photo.  At the back, on the shelf, beneath that red object, you notice some openings.  Those are the cartons I have placed there side by side to accommodate and separate little things that fit in to them.  I can call them 'mini-organizers'. Cards, calculator, letters, boxes and whatnot can be kept in these little open shelves.  They can also be kept horizontally, if the need suits. 

They are very easy to make.  First of all, the new carton must be opened carefully while emptying the original content.  The undamaged carton's top flaps must be folded inwards and stapled so that they stay stuck with the box. Since I have kept half a dozen of them, I've put across a tape on all of them so that they wont dance! 

I've also made use of toothpaste cartons for other things in similar fashion.  Smaller cartons will hold buttons, pins and other smaller items.  I keep my watch in a small cut up carton in the little draw you see there attached to the desk [the draw itself is another story for another post!].

The advantage of these things are it costs nothing. If you don't need them, just dispose them properly, or better, if you have a hot water boiler [firewood], burn them.  Fun to make, easy to use, light weight, high utility value and you can keep them anywhere that is suitable - customized.   You can also cut it down to the size you need.

Powder box lampshade

The lamp itself is interesting. This is a vintage stand left behind by the old tenant who was an optician and had his clinic in our room. It has an adjustable stand. It can be tilted to any angle we desire as you can see there.  It is fixed to the wall.  The lamp now hangs on my work desk at home.  The desk is very messy and luckily it is out of the frame!  :)

Before I write anything, you must have already observed what I wanted to show, right?  You have read the title of this blog.  The old lampshade was the traditional one hanging type, like a cup.  It was suitable for incandescent bulbs and I was using it before.  When we shifted to CFLs, the vertical hanging does not suit as a table lamp.  The CFL with its long tubes has to be horizontal to get most light on the place we want. In fact, I have even turned the bulb holders pointing at a downward angle, upwards to fit and get most light from CFLs.  

This CFL table lamp now needed a shade to avoid the glare to the eye. I had this empty Johnson's Baby Powder box lying around.  Its length perfectly suited the bulb size. Look at it glow here!

I cut up one side to allow light, and a nice round hole at its bottom to fit it to the bulb holder.  I ensured that the plastic box will not touch the tube as it gets hot after some minutes of use. So it was safe. 

Under this, I can do precision work like removing tiny screws from watches for replacing batteries or even watch repair, remove tiny splinters that may sometimes get into the fingers and so on.  I am really enjoying this lampshade.  When it is not in use, I tilt it towards the wall and it does not come in the way.