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.

Vintage Dog Chain repurposed

My grandmother used to tell about Jimmy and Tippy were two pet dogs that were with the great grandfather's family in the 1920s and 30s.  It was in the house which he built in 1911 and the family stayed till 1950 before renting it out.  But in my time in that other house there has been no pet animal with us.  I moved back to that, now 102-year old house in 1998, where Jimmy-Tippy ran around and got chained at times.

Among vintage junk, I had found the rusty dog chain from those days.  There was an instant fondness for its snap hook.  Since there was no intention of having a dog, I wanted to find some other use for this strong chain.  

There was a need for my travel suitcase to be chained during the rail journeys - as they are done here - because of thefts happen at night esp. in normal sleeper bogies [not much in higher class compartments]. So passengers prefer to secure their important luggage with chains for which the Railways also have provided rings under the seats to lock them. 

I was using a cheap chain for my travel which was not strong.  Now this rusty dog chain was all set to be converted into my travel chain.  Neither the snap hook nor the T-handle at the other end were useful as a travel chain.  So I cut them off. I had my sturdy travel chain ready! 

It has traveled with me on several journeys since I made it ten years ago.

But what was to be done with my favourite snap hook?   It was just the perfect key-less locking arrangement on the inside latch of our main door.  Jimmy-Tippy hook is useful to this day, this way.

Picture of it with latch open. 

Close-up of snap hook:

Countering mosquitoes, 'Dinuway!'

I made a Mosquito Masher, the only one in the world [I claim!] which is very handy but this post is about another method I resorted to counter mosquito menace indoors. 
All pictures here are taken by me. Click on them to get a magnification.

We do not feel the prick of these Aedes mosquitoes [Asian Tiger Mosquito], but the poison it injects will make us scratch the area for a long time, which can drive us crazy esp. if we are doing something that demands high concentration and focus.  I'm getting pricked in the garden by what we call commonly as 'garden mosquito'.  They are active in daytime.


But how often can we do that and what is the success rate?  And where is the patience?

They know where to prick, even through my pyjama fabric. Below is a good macro shot I got of a Culex mosquito.  See its bulged belly full of MY blood.  I allowed it to have its fill for this photo.  
Swat again!

The latest swat, an Aedes which causes a rash. 

These are some of the larger mosquitoes in my garden - not as bothersome as the two smaller varieties above. They live more on plant protein.  See this collage of  7 images:


In my college days, the mosquitoes waited for my legs to come under the study table, to suck blood.   My exposed feet were vulnerable and the pyjamas covered only up to the ankles. The attacks used to be so disconcerting, why during study, even at other times also and even now, while at the computer desk.

Its favourite areas for attack besides feet are back of the arm, under the sleeve and at the neck which exposes on bending the head to read a book on the desk.  Of course, --clap-- one wafted across the monitor - missed - they look for exposed areas of the face/head too.  

During one of my cricket tours, I asked my senior team-mate [a sort of 'know-all'] Mr.Krishnaprasad, why mosquitoes preferred the feet or back of forearm.  "They like dark and shadow areas" he said.  Indeed, he was right.  Now I can vouch for that as well after observing for a long time since, besides the fact that these blood suckers also like other exposed areas which they feel right to prick.  Sitting at the desk did not end with college days, so the botheration persists.  Now we have computers at home where we spend quite a bit of time, putting the feet under the dark space under the table. How about laptops? 

I have tried mosquito repellent creams, vapours from a medicated mat or smoke from a medicated 'coil'. But I needed to find a cheap and effective way to keep the blood suckers at bay, at least not disturbing my feet and arms.  I used my sports socks to good effect but needed something more comfortable and easy to remove and put on, to cover at least up to the shins.  I also later discovered that my old torn pyjama legs would help.  It did.  I had put velcro at the knees to prevent them from sliding down and closed the bottom to make it like a bag. So my legs were in these 'two bags' while I sat at the desk. 

There was always scope for improvement.  I wanted my track suit upper to be sleeveless.  So I cut off the long sleeves [see me wearing on such shortened thing here].  I made two other suits like this.  Last week, when I cut off a pair of track bottom at the knees to make them shorts [see me wearing it here, cut off], I found the answer for my improvisation.  

I joined this and a pair from another track upper sleeves I had cut off.  

This is what I got now. 

The light blue will be on top and I can pull it up to the knee and even walk around too.  Now I can sit without disturbance at the feet.

What about the arms?  Another cut off pair of sleeves..... You can clip it there............ [if you are not wearing a ready full sleeve shirt!]

The following option was not feasible!  *Smile*

 I also keep these alternatives handy just in case:  Mosquito Repellent Coil or Sprays [seen in picture] or Cream [not in pic]. 

Let me show you some mosquito larvae in my garden - they find stagnant water somewhere.  I change water in the barrels when it matters.

For mosquito net is the best option for sleeping though. This is a vintage cot, more than 120 years old in my estimate. You see net frames were designed even at that time indicating that the 'skeeters' have been bothering humans all along.

My witty friend Papacchi used to tell he used to sit on his cot and allow the skeeters to come near him.  Once they were there, he would bring down the net and kill them since they could not escape out. 

Another witty colleague used to tell when he bought mosquito repellent creams he did not know that it was to be smeared on our skins.  He thought mosquitoes had to be caught and cream applied to them, so they would repel away! 

Blood donation is an important service that helps save lives.  I sometimes stayed in my relative's house in Bangalore where huge mosquitoes were abound [1980s] in that then new locality [Padmanabhanagar].  In the mornings, my bed would look like some murder had taken place but I was alive.  All the beds in Chandu's house was like that!  What a job it was to wash those blood-stained sheets!  I was fond of saying that 'I donated blood' when I stayed there. I have not seen anything like it any time. 

The word "mosquito" is Spanish for "little fly," and its use dates back to about 1583 in North America (Europeans referred to mosquitoes as "gnats"). Mosquitoes belong to the order Diptera, true flies. Mosquitoes are like flies in that they have two wings, but unlike flies, their wings have scales, their legs are long and the females have a long mouth part (proboscis) for piercing skin. ["HowStuffWorks.com]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Clock into photo-frame

Employees were given a memento to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of formation of our HQ. It was in the form of a clock, so horribly designed that its dial was dark blue and and hands, black.  Visibility of the hands / time was very difficult. I tried painting the hands yellow which did help, but the clock itself went kaput in less than a year.  Several colleagues also had the same complaint!  What a shame for such a commemoration! 

I threw away the clock in disgust, but retained the frame - actually better than the clock!  I cut up a Master's picture and replaced the clock in the frame. Lo, I can still use that commemorative clock's 'remaining portion', which was otherwise junk. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vintage photos 'unframed and 'albumed'!

I will quickly run through a century with some background about 'junk' in our house. My great grandfather built a house in 1911 at Lakshmipuram [a locality] and died in 1936.  My grandfather moved to another house, not far from it, at Devaparthiva Road [Chamarajapuram] in 1950 after renting his father's house.  So, all the things that had accumulated since 1911 or before followed and went up to the spacious attic or store room at Chamarajapuram, where I grew up. This post is only about the vintage pictures in frames, esp. dead ancestors and group photos, as photos of gods and political leaders are not relevant here, so also the myriad objects. 

Walls of houses being adorned with several old glass-framed pictures of gods, ancestors etc. was a common sight in the decades gone by.  Our house at Chamarajapuram was also like this. Most of them were from my great grandfather's time.  In this rare 1956 family function picture [indoor pictures were rare], two are seen at the top edge and one or two in the back - inside that room.

[Click on pictures to 'biggify' them]

I can remember from my earliest childhood, one particular photo in our veranda, hung above the door frame of my grandfather's office room.  I did not know for many years that it was an aircraft or the people in it were elite and royal!  I used to look at it often.  I learn now that this was part of the historic maiden trip of our Mysore Maharaja, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar in 1936. [Click]  This was on his first ever flight and taken at Croydon airport.  I still wonder how pictures of such occasions came here and in framed condition for display. 

In 1970 when the house was whitewashed, my father removed and dumped many in the store room and the reason was also their losing relevance over decades. Came the early 80s and I found myself taking up the responsibility of cleaning the store room once in a while.  My father had died in 1981. You know, there were about 60-70 framed pictures of different sizes, some of their glasses were cracked and some frames themselves rickety.  It occupied a helluva lot of shelf space and box space!   The smaller ones were kept in an old rickety wooden box, the perfect haven for cockroaches!   I wanted to get rid of as many pictures and frames as I could.  There seemed to be no purpose in keeping them there for nothing.

In school I did not like 'History', but ironically, I liked vintage stuff.  In one of those cleaning chores, I happened to look at the photos closely and carefully, which I had not done before.  This completely altered the course of my plan to rid many of them and resulted in a new option: 'Proper Preservation'!  My great grandfather or our Mysore King or my grandfather or some dead relative or gods or saints or political heroes were in many. I saw a lot of valuable history in them!  What to do?

Idea!  "Albumize"!

Converting them into an album was the best option, but it would involve a lot of patient work and there was risk of damaging some pictures and mounts.   I set about this project and did not look back. Imagine our house at one time having about 80-90 photos on walls of rooms, hall and verandah, everywhere.

The first job now was to separate them from the frames.  It was a lot of work in itself, removing nails behind them. Some glasses came in handy as replacements for a few broken window panes.

I had about 40-50 photos to preserve after they were removed from the glass frames.  Many in them esp. groups are not identifiable, even the occasions. Old pictures reveal things like costumes, furniture, head gear, etc.,

This project sprang up in January 1986 and I was to even apply for leave from work for some days.  Separating the photos from their cardboard mounts, which were brittle with age was the trickiest part and preserving the details printed on the mounts was another.
Just an example here:

Since all are vintage 'bromide prints', they last long.

All the photos were now ready and sorted.  It took me 6 months.

I bought black album sheets and cardboard for the cover. I became a 'book-binder' [used paste from boiled flour].  The widest photo became the width of the album when I cut the sheets to size.

I used cloth and cotton thread for the binding portions.  I was  happy about the binding job.

The printed mounts were carefully thinned to preserve the details. 

Some could not be separated.  So I made photocopies and pasted them. 

There were many with none and with the change of generations, there was none to identify them!

 The album project ended well.  Imagine such a huge volume of photo frames now reduced to one album, about 16"x12".  I was able to get some personalities in esp. group pictures identified by my old relatives and I made it a point to show the album to them which they also admired, enjoyed.and 'nostalgiated'. Some like the above continue to remain a mystery.

Browse through my online 'Photobucket'album "Vintage Pictures" [Click on 'vintage pictures']. There are 73 pictures in it. 80% of them were removed from their mountings and photo frames. Keep an eye on the years wherever you see them.

Certain wooden frames had become rickety and I just put them into the fire. All the good ones which were only few were restored and now they are still around me.  I will show one or two.

This is the best frame in which I put in my art work. 

See the  frame close-up.  Simply beautiful.

This large frame is about 30 inches high, of our most beloved and revered Mysore King. It was always there in our hall and I continue to find a place for this beautiful picture.  He has done so much for Mysore.

My great grandparents. They were in two separate large frames.  I adjusted both in one, thus saving one. I live in the house built by him in 1911.

My best find in that wooden box is this very small picture:  

I had hung it to some nail in the dark passage outside the store room.  When it was being dusted one day, I looked at it closely, taking it to good light, to see what it was.  It had a "signature" of Swami Vivekananda, the great Saint who had made that historic speech in Chicago and won hearts at the World Conference of Religions in 1893.  See photo-maker's name! 

 I was absolutely thrilled.  It deserved a better frame than the one it was in, all its life.  There were a few still waiting to be reused.  One good frame just suited the dimensions of this.  I made a cut-cardboard mount and framed it.  This is what you saw.  It still adorns our hall. Some good frames also now hold a few of my paintings.

This 'unframing and albuming' project remains one of my most satisfying endeavours, though at the back of my mind I feel having damaged the original mountings, but I do not regret now, because this cannot be undone.  Now I have to protect the album from silverfish.

The wooden box [left] now serves as the garden tool box. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Chair made by me

Simple upholstery, simple design and shape of an old, sturdy sofa set in my workplace front office found my profound liking.  Its back rest and seat were 'softly firm', just ideal for comfort. The set must have been in use here for may be 40 years and it has not asked for any repair till now!  See recent picture of me enjoying the comfort of that chair.

In our house, except for the reclining chair there were no other chairs to lean back and relax. The other half a dozen chairs were higher with their backs also straighter.  I wanted to make one because and also wanted to feel how good it is to make it myself!

Some left over teak wood pieces from a 1989 cot-project [made by a carpenter] seemed to just right if I made the chair.  So I set about this project without a second thought and took a week's leave from work.

I noted down the sizes in my rough drawing. The left overs were insufficient and so I bought the remaining ones from a timber merchant.  I got the L-grooves cut in a nearby saw mill to embed the plywood.
I now had the time, drive, design, tools and materials.

Planing took a long time because this was the first time I was taking such a big project!   Then, I sawed the pieces to size and joined them.  The portions for the back and seat were first made and when I looked at it, something was wrong, weirdly wider than I had intended! Since the dimensions were only in the mind having failed to measure the width of my office chair with a tape, this silly thing had happened!!  The only option now was to cut one side and join again!  Phew!  So I cut a good four to five inches off!  Extra work!  Height was not a problem as I had got a guide-measure from the one at home.  Intentionally I reduced the angle for the back to my chair. 

What a seasoned carpenter could do in a day, I took 4 days. I realized how important proper measurements would be when we begin!   There were no electric tools at that time, easily available or affordable. 

The first person to sit on the new chair was my tiny daughter.  Though I had a film camera at that time, it did not occur to me to take pictures of it.  The little one's gaping expression "what is he doing to me?" is in memory.

Here are two images of the chairs side by side:

I got two cotton pillows made after sanding and applying two coats of varnish.  The chair now looked royal! This project gave me great pleasure. I showed with pride to most visitors who would not believe.  "YOU made it?", was the expression that usually followed!  [And also I have made several other little things from smaller pieces of wood, but they will be in another post.]

Gopinath, who was a wonderful family friend and former tenant, lived in his own house after his retirement just a shout away.  He would drop in every now and then and admire this chair.  He had named this as "Maharaja's Chair"!   It was looking slightly wide even after I had reduced the width!  He always used to say that it would properly fit the Mysore Maharaja, who was a very fat person!

My grandfather receiving a trophy at Mysore Sports Club, 1966 [?], from the Mysore Maharaja [Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar].  See what Gopinath meant!

I have spent many hundreds of hours on it, mostly listening to the radio beside which I had kept.  It turned out that the 'extra' width enabled me to even sit in my favourite posture, sitting cross-legged and my knees rested on the arm-rests!  No photos of me. My children too enjoyed this chair, which had become my very favourite. 

In 2009 due to property division, pressure for space was created.  Suddenly there was no proper room for this chair and some other furniture as well.  The best was to shift them to 'Anandavana' where regular spiritual and social activities of World Teacher Trust are conducted.  A new set of pillows were made for The Maharaja's Chair, there.  The Masters give their talks seated on it.  

The Grand Master on it, 2012. 

Latest picure, taken after another group talk.  2014.

This is the best satisfaction after making the chair, seeing spiritual maharajas sitting on it and giving discourses!