The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Getting to Grips

Posted by Exile on January 2, 2022

A good friend, whom I have never met, was kind enough to send me a present. We have exchanged opinions and views for some years via the magic of the internet but never had the chance to physically meet. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, in the USA and is about as far away from me as one can get without standing in water. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when he e-mailed me, saying he was sending me “something”. It arrived at my home on New Years Eve. I have never seen anything quite like it.

DSCN0041It is a tool, beautifully made. A piece of genuine American ingenuity. I know that because I went off to do a bit of research and found the patent number and even the inventor of this tool. I do not believe there are many of these in Europe.
But, perhaps, I am getting ahead of myself here. Firstly, I should thank Jim (his real name, but you will get no more from me here regarding identity) for sending it to me. He wrote an accompanying letter stating that he has carried the tool for the past 60 years and how he came by it. I must also thank his father who, I presume, bought the thing to use on his dairy farm and so passed it on to Jim. So now I have some history of the thing. It is probably close to 100 years old. Which makes it almost a true antique. And finally, the inventor of this wonderful tool. His name was Percival F. King. He had three patents on various forms of this tool. This one being the final and, in my opinion, best itteration of it, from 1926. The tool is marked ‘Vise-Lock-Pliers’ and ‘Seattle, U.S.A.’ The patent number is there too.
I found the patent in the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents. I’ll drop a link at the end.
It is a precursor to the ubiquitous visegrips that we all know and love today.

DSCN0042The pliers do get a firm grip on whatever they are applied to. I pride myself on having a reasonable mechanical understanding but I cannot for the very life of me see how they achieve that. Simply closing the jaws with some pressure causes it to grip and lock on, There is no mechanical device involved. To release the grip, one simply opens the handles and it lets go. I have studied the thing for hours and I can’t see how. It may have something to do with the cam inside the body of the tool which actuates the jaws but I really don’t know.

This wonderful invention will be passed down to my grandson when he is old enough to use and appreciate what he is getting. Right now it is going to take residence in the toolbox attached to my motorcycle. I suppose that, one day, that will also be passed on to him, once he’s big enough to start and ride it. That’s a few years away yet though so, for now, I will be the custodian.

I must say, that I am impressed by the ingenuity of our forefathers. They made things to last and we now stand on their shoulders. I believe that we should hang on to our historical inheritance and celebrate the achievements of those that went before us. We can learn from them and we must teach our children to do so as well.

Once again, a resounding ‘thank you’ to Jim. Rest assured my friend, that the tool is in good hands and greatly appreciated.

See the patent here;
American Directory of Tools and Machinery

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Merry Christmas?

Posted by Exile on December 23, 2021

Having seen the news today, I wonder how merry it will be. Another year with this Covid nonsense and now the govenment is lining us up for more. This year it’s the Omikron variant. Which, if one does a little research on the internet, turns out to be extremely infectious but relatively harmless. Who cares anyway? Covid is amongst us, thanks to China, and there is not much we can do about it. I have been vaccinated, twice in the first round, and now I have had to have a booster…
Why? Because the vaccines don’t actually work. If they did, I wouldn’t need to be boosted. Would I? And those that have been vaccinated would not get the dreaded disease. But yet, they do. Which makes me seriously question the Corona “passport”, without which one is basically forced to confine oneself to the limits of one’s home and be treated as a social outcast in all other respects.

The fear campaign is in full swing. We have to wear masks. We can’t go to the pub, or restaurants, or the theatre and all sport is stopped. Which means I can’t go to my archery club either. Schools are closed again, until the 5th of January, where, miraculously, the disease will obviously be less dangerous. Strange how a date can make a difference.
Who decides all this? How do they know?
The figures for the infected and dead are alarming. Hospitalisation is rife, proclaimig hundreds in intensive care and up to many thousands a day testing positive. If those figures are correct then I should be seeing people lying dead on the streets. I don’t believe a word of it. Exaggeration is an effective weapon, especially if you control what gets propagated in the news.
The state medical powers that be are citing an expected increase in severe cases and again warning that hospitals will be overrun and that we will lack the resources to deal with it. I can’t help but wonder, why the government, after nearly two years of this, have not made the necessary provisions to accomodate the prophesied rise in Covid cases.

Testing is a farce. And to make matters worse, we have now run out of home-test kits. Tests are pointless. If one takes a test and it turns out negative, it makes no difference. The test is truly only valuable up to the point of testing. Ten minutes after the result one can easily be infected. But now, safe in the knowledge that one tested negative ten minutes ago, one can continue to spread the virus for days while waving a negative result certificate in the faces of everyone one meets for the entire incubation period until one suddenly realises that one is ill. What is the point? I refuse to be tested.

The truth is, that I have stopped listening. I believe we are being lied to on all counts. I do not believe the infection rate figures. I do not believe the hospitals are full. I am not afraid of anything that has so little chance of ending my days.
I am gathering my family for Christmas. I’m going to enjoy it all. Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow, I might get hit by a bus, or contract Covid. The chances are about equally small.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Assault and Battery

Posted by Exile on November 27, 2021

Many years ago I had a problem with my car. It kept losing power from the battery and despite my efforts to find the fault, I couldn’t. It was also intermittent, which didn’t make that task any easier. Finally, I bought a cheap chinese jumper pack and that kept me going until I could get an electrician to fix the problem. After years of neglect and not being used, the thing was finally declared dead.

I hooked a battery charger up to it and left it for a while. No result. The battery was absolutely dead.
Not being the type to simply give up on things, I decided to assault the thing and open it up to get at the gubbins of it. I expected to see a lot of wires, electronic wizardy and various other things that would make any repair impossible.

Not at all. The guts are very simple. A large sealed battery, a small electronic board unit which steers the voltmeter, charge indicator, an on/off switch and a lamp.
But it is only a battery, I thought. A battery that could be replaced very easily. Off to the internet then and see what I could find. Which didn’t take long. A local parts dealer, not far away, had the exact battery.
I rang them up, reserved one and collected it today.



Replacement was simple and very quickly done. I hooked my charger up to it and topped up the battery.

That took precisely one hour. It lives again.
I have a slightly more expensive jumper pack which lives in the boot of my car. That one gets regularly topped up to keep it fresh. This one will live in the iShed with the motorbike. I’ll take better care of it now.

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Making a Bowstring

Posted by Exile on October 21, 2021

…isn’t easy either.

In the middle ages they used flax. These days we use other materials, polyesters and other strange things. I went for dacron, which is a polymer thing and is very strong. One starts by making 7 huge loops at a couple of metres in length and then cut the loops to form two cords of material, each one with seven strands. Wax the ends to form a more solid cord and keep them seperate from each other to avoid tangles. Now one overlaps two ends and begins to twist the cords together to form a string. At some point one has created enough twisted string to form a loop. The overlap has to be long enough to allow room to twist the two sides of the loop together to start forming the string, This is done by combining the two shorter ends made while forming the loop with the opposite string. Continue twisting until the ends are gone. This leaves one with a string with a loop in one end and a lot of untangling to be done on the remaining string.
Go to the other end and choose a point well up on the string. Wax the two strands and begin twisting them together until one reaches the end. Tie a simple knot to end the process.

All a bit difficult to explain, difficult to do and requires a good deal of manual dexterity and patience.
The string then gets put on the bow. Tie a timber hitch (known now as a bowyers knot) to attach the string to the bottom nock and the loop goes into the top nock. Bow strung.

The string isn’t finished yet. It has to be served. This is a process where one whips a thin thread around the string, covering a little more than six inches in length, to protect it from wear from the arrow nocks and your fingers. A simple machine is required to do it nicely but one can wind thread on by hand if one does not possess such a simple tool. Whipping is precise and, again, not easy. Finishing the whipping is especially time consuming as one has to suddenly reverse the proces and bury the loose end under the whipping.
Having got that job out of the way one needs to define the point at which the arrow meets the string and set another nock to mark that point. Make that by whipping a small thread around the string, over the serving or use a brass nock ring squeezed into place with a small tool designed specifically for such an operation.

And that’s it. You’re done. And your fingers hurt. Never mind. You can now use the bow, which makes the whole process worthwhile!

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Making a Longbow

Posted by Exile on October 20, 2021

…isn’t easy,
It all started at the archery club. A friend turned up and gave me a limb that he had cut from a yew tree. “Here. Make a longbow.” I took the limb and looked at it for a while. “How?”, I asked.
”You’ll figure it out.”, he said, leaving me to it.
The limb was seven feet long, very knotty and not straight. I studied it for days. Having decided where the best option was for getting something out of it, I went to it with a hatchet and began roughing out the shape of a longbow. It was very tapered at the top, so that bit had to go. I was left with about six feet of wood decorated with knots and pits. I debarked the limb and carefully left the top layer of sapwood intact. This will be the back of the bow and it must be unbroken. The sapwood will tolerate the stretch and the heartwood will bear the compression in the belly of the bow. Which is why yew is the best wood for a bow.

Draw-Knife Roughing out is a big job but refining the bow takes a little more delicate working. I did this with a draw knife and a spokeshave. Traditional tools for the bowyer but somewhat untested by me, Also the traditional way to do this is on a shave horse. I don’t have one and I wasn’t going to build one, so I had to get creative with a wooden frame and my workshop vise. After a lot of shaving, studying and more shaving I finally had something resembling a bow. Knotty and not quite straight but a good facsimile, I decided it was time to start tillering.

Tillering is done on a tillering tree. I had to make one. It consists of a pole with a small platform on the top to ballance the bow on and a pulley system to hook to the bowstring. By pulling on the string from a distance one can see how the bow is bending. Start gently. Too much and you will break the bow. One is looking for weak spots as well as parts of the limbs that are not bending. Those unbending areas have to be reduced. Leave the weaker spots alone. Eventually the limbs will bend evenly and uniformly. Continue until the bow will bend to the draw length that one requires. I went to 28 inches.
Reducing the limbs was done with a spokeshave and a scraper. Use both sparingly and remove very little wood at a time. Spokeshave A long process, but necessary to get the bow working properly.

Finally I had a bow. Unfinished, but ready for the final dressing and fitting of nocks and grip and string. All these things have to be made, I got hold of some horn to make the nocks. I found some fine leather to fashion a grip and I had to shop for materials with whch to make a string. Dacron thread, a serving machine, serving thread and wax.

I started with the nocks. One takes the tip of a horn and bores a conical hole up the middle. Then one sharpens the tips of the limbs of the bow to fit snugly into said conical holes. This is best done with a rasp and a file. Again, it takes time and multiple test fittings. The nocks need a groove carved into them to accomodate the string, Use a rat tail file to do this. It makes the fingers ache but it does get the job done. The grooves in the top nock have to follow the line of the string that will be made once the string is on the bow. Not easy and requiring a good eye, I worked at it for a long time. The bottom nock is different. It requires a larger groove which covers the entire circumference of the nock. A bowyers knot gets tied into that groove. It has to be angled slightly  to take the string which will tighten all around the nock.
IMG_1040
Satisfied that all was as good as it was ever going to be, I set the nocks in place and glued them with epoxy.
The leather grip was easy. Cut a square(ish) piece of leather and simply glue it to the bow. I used a spray on adhesive for this. It allowed me to strecth the leather to fit. Now for the really easy part. Get a cup of tea and wait for the glue to dry.

I’m still far from finished. I need to make a string and the bow needs to be properly finished and the nocks need refining, but I am waiting until I have tried the bow before I invest more time in it. I want to get the string on and test shoot with it. I have arrows, I have a target face and a range I can use.
Tomorrow will be a stringfellow day. I’ve never made a bowstring before. I have seen a few tutorials on Youtube….
It’s going to be another interesting day…

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Grandson’s Tool chest.

Posted by Exile on June 3, 2021

I want one, Grandad. So that was that.

IMG_0689He wanted a tool chest to keep all his tools in, just like mine. Jealousy is a wicked mistress and I couldn’t have that sort of thing going on around here. So off to the lumber yard it was and buy wood. I decided I’d make one similar to my own but scaled down to suit him. He has a collection of tools but not as many as I and his are smaller, where that can be so.
He has a Nr. 3 plane that he can use, a saw, a square, screwdriver, clamps, a hammer embossed with his name, a tape rule, a straight steel rule, pencils and other bits and pieces. He can use most of them quite well. For a ten year old, he’s getting quite profficient.

Putting it all together for him wasn’t difficult. I had learned a lot while making my own tool chest so the work went quickly. I made a few dividing pieces to fit his tools and even gave him one of my Nr. 4 planes to use when he gets bigger. The lid is limited on opening by a steel chain and the bottom drawer is a direct copy of the one I made for myself. I filled it with his tools and waited for the weekend to roll around. He comes to stay every other weekend. I showed him the chest on the saturday morning.
He was thrilled, describing it as being “The coolest thing ever.”

We discussed how we should finish it. I suggested varnish or stain. “I want to paint it blue.” he said.  So we had to go and get paint.
Blue is his favourite colour. I bought a 2” paintbrush while I was there. I reckoned he could paint the thing while I watched. That’s how they learn.

IMG_0718_InPixioAnd paint it he did. Twice. We left it overnight to dry properly. It turned out very well. He stood back to admire his work and found a terrible flaw in the whole arrangement. It doesn’t have wheels, Grandad. So that had to be put right immediately. It now has wheels.


He’s pleased with it all. While we were in the shed, I had him make a bench hook to add to his tool collection. He used his own tools, did it in his own time and was pleased with the result.
He’s going to be quite the carpenter one of these days…

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Wakey Wakey…

Posted by Exile on May 30, 2021

Time to rise and shine, Thumper…

The weather was wonderful today. It hasn’t been of late, well below the average temperature and short on sunshine.  Global warming hasn’t kicked in around here, again. I’m beginning to think it’s all nonsense…
Anyhow, I thought it was time to bring my motorcycle out of hibernation and take a quick spin round the block to remove dust and cobwebs. That all sounds reasonable and why not? The sun was shining from a cloud free sky and the temperature was, well, reasonable. The thing is, one cant just jump on and ride off without doing a few basic checks. Lord knows what 6 months of inactivity could do to electrics, tyres, oil and fuel and I don’t like surprises…
The tyres had lost pressure. Easily solved, I have a compressor and a tyre pressure attachment. I checked for oil but since there was none on the floor under the bike then I know he hasn’t lost any. I pulled the dipstick anyway. No problem. I put the battery on a charger for a half hour. It was then fully charged, The electrics all worked with a turn of the key. Lights, horn, brake lights and all the instrument lights were working. Now to the fuel. We have to live with ethanol. It is in all our fuel. It might be clean and cheap or whatever but it isn’t good for anything remotely related to rubber or plastic and it attracts water. I checked all the lines for breaks or brittleness and then turned the fuel supply on. Sure enough, I was leaking fuel from the tiny float bowl under the fuel tap. There is a rubber washer in there and it had shrunk. I managed to tighten the bowl but I know that little rubber washer needs replacing now. It won’t last another year.
OK. Everything done up, checked and tightened where necessary. We’re ready for the off.
Boots, helmet and gloves on, I climbed aboard and attempted a start. Not entirely straight forward with a big single Royal Enfield Bullet…. It’s ritual. Pull in the clutch and kick it over to free the clutch plates as they will stick  together like crap on a blanket. Then open the decompressor to get the piston over top dead centre, Close the decompressor. Set the stop/start switch to “run”. Ignition on, start help on the carburettor on and give it a kick. Pray.
If at first you don’t succeed, give it another kick.. and then a third…
VROOM!
Damn, it was so good to hear that big 500 cc engine roar into life. Even my neighbour cheered…
And then I was off, round the block a few times to get used to riding again. I’m more rusty than the bike. If I didn’t have a stinking cold right now I would still be out there but not being able to blow my nose every five minutes is so aggravating that I had to give up any thoughts of a good long thrash for the time being. But OK, Thumper is ready for that now. It won’t be long before we’re back on the road for more fun and games.. Let summer begin.

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Not Worth Losing Your Head Over…

Posted by Exile on April 26, 2021

It was a youngster weekend again.

My grandson was here for his fortnightly stay with the old ‘uns. He enjoys these weekends, no pressure, all fun and my wife spoils him rotten. His birthday is on the 1st of January and, due to things way beyond our control, we didn’t get him a birthday present. It was promised and not forgotten. He wanted a remote controlled “Mario” go kart. Better late than never, we got him one and he was given it on arrival at our home. Some assembly required. The battery pack has to be charged and fitted and batteries for the controller need to be loaded into the back. No problem and quickly done.


MarioThe kart wouldn’t turn to the left. It went in a straight line and to the right but refused to go the other way. I told him to read the instruction booklet but what ten year old ever did that? So I did. I had to. The kart needs to be trimmed to the controller. One does this by pressing the “trim” button and getting the thing to run straight. Then switch “trim” off and try again. That worked. Hosanna! Jubilation! So off to the street outside and see what this thing can do. It does about 20 kph. That’s 12 mph in old money.

I told the lad to take it easy until he had some idea of the capabilities of the kart. Steering and speed and so on. Again, what ten year old boy does that?
Nope. not mine. It was full speed ahead and no holds barred.
This was great fun for a while but then the inevitable happened. He ran it at full speed into the kerbstone. The kart stopped but Mario’s head continued and bounced across the pavement, disappearing into the hedge.

I thought, he’ll be upset now. He’ll scream and shout and bawl. The world will end for him right here. I expected a right old fuss.

Not a bit of it.

He looked at me with calm and control written all over his little face. “You can glue that back on, Grandad.” he said. Infinite trust. Absolute belief in what he said. I was quite taken aback.
I reckon we can, I said and retrieved Mario’s head from the hedge.

Off to the shed then. This could also be a learning moment for him. Two part epoxy should be on everyone’s list of stuff to have lying around. I explained what two part epoxy is, a resin and a hardener. Mix in equal amounts. He was very attentive, but then again, he always is in the shed. We mixed it, found a little stick to spread it with and set Mario back together again. Leave it until the morning, I said.

It worked. Mario is as good as new and the lad is driving it happily and, perhaps, a little more carefully  once again.

One can’t even see the repair.

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As Time Goes By..

Posted by Exile on April 23, 2021

…so says the old song..

A year ago I bought a watch for my dear wife. Not just any old watch, no, she wanted a Tag Heuer Aqua with mother of pearl and other blingy bits like gold and a diamond. I found one, bought it and wept at the sight of my greatly reduced wallet. She loves it and has worn it every day since she got it.
The time has come for a service of this expensive piece. We have a service agreement, the first two are free and they are annual. Corona has hindered us in getting in on time but they were very understanding at the jewellers and “no problem, Sir” was the order of the day. So far so good.

Seiko Presage automatic_InPixioFourteen years ago, I bought my own watch there too. A Seiko, fully automatic, generator and batteri driven. It has served me very well. It is also in need of a service. The weight that drives the works has become noisy and the second hand moves in a less than ideal manner. I delivered it at the same time and, again, no problem. They will ring and give me a price. All is well.

Now neither my wife or I have a watch at present. (Not entirely true because I have a few cheap ones for daily use in the garden and the shed, but not, well, nice.)

Then this thing caught my eye as I was leaving the shop. As a secondary accoutrement it will serve my purposes. It will (hopefully) not be a replacement for my grand Seiko but one does need to consider one’s appearance.

Again a Seiko, automatic, from the “Presage” series. Not terribly expensive but elegant enough and it isn’t too heavy.

So I bought the thing.

The dear wife says it’s nice. Thank heavens….

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Thieving Mouse..

Posted by Exile on April 18, 2021

I thought I was feeding a hedgehog. We have one or two that come round, one spent the winter here in another house. This house was set up as a feeding station and resting place for itinerant hedgies. Something was taking the food so I decided to set up the trail camera and catch the hedgie on film. Turns out, it isn’t a hedgie.. The little mouse was in and out several times during the night. Always took the same route in and out. I think it may be a nesting female gathering food for her brood. Oh well, they are a part of nature too and as long as she stays outside of the house then I’m OK with it.
Video here:

https://youtu.be/YCAV68lymPQ

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