The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

New Drain

Posted by Exile on May 16, 2022

The rat problem has finally been resolved. After determining the fact that the drain had collapsed we contacted our insurance company. It’s taken its time but, finally, we were contacted by the drain fixing company. They said they would come within a week or so. That week shrank to two days as we were informed that they were indeed on their way and was that OK? Yes it was, I said, come and get going.
They arrived. With a mini digging machine that wasn’t in any way going to get through the gate to the garden. You’ll have to get in through the hedge, I said. No problem was the reply. Where? I had an elder bush growing in the hedge. I never liked it. Rip that out, I said, and come in there. Goodbye elder bush, roots and all.
Once inside the garden and right beside the wall of my house the digging got going. Six and a half feet down we heard the thump of metal shovel on concrete drain pipe. The hole got a good deal wider now and my garden began to look like the Somme on a bad day as tons of earth and clay came up and out…
I decided to go and make coffee for the pair of workmen. I was otherwise only in their way. Returning with said coffee, I saw that they had now removed the broken pipe and were clearing out the debris and the old well that had otherwise given us a certain degree of access to the drain. It was basically a giant grease trap that will no longer be necessary. We now have a direct drain from the kitchen to the drainage system. Building codes change, apparently. I don’t mind. I used to have to get the well cleared by suction every now and then, which was expensive and wasn’t likely to be getting any cheaper with passing time.
The new outlet pipe was soon in place, sealed and deemed as being in order. I didn’t see that bit so I had to take their word for it. There again, they know what they are doing, even if I don’t.
I was expecting this process to take days. These guys were basically done with it in less than three hours. The hole was filled in, the old concrete junk removed and then we tidied up as best we could. The digger had to remain in my garden as the trailer it came on was now full of concrete pipe, the old grease trap and rocks. It disappeared early the following morning. I hope it was them that removed it because I didn’t hear a thing….
All I need to do now is put the garden back together. There’s no peace for the wicked. What am I going to fill the hole in the hedge with? No idea. Time will tell. Right now, I’m just glad to be free of the rats.


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All by Myself..

Posted by Exile on May 9, 2022

..for a few days.

My good lady flew off to Spain for a long weekend with a pair of her girlfriends. Lord only knows what they’ll be doing in Torremolinos but as long as she’s happy, then so am I.
So, it’s been me and the dog for the past few days. Which hasn’t been unpleasant in any way. Actually, I got a lot done and the dog has had a few adventures he wouldn’t normally have. He’s been to two different archery ranges and he’s met a shed load of people who all thought he was cute. Being a chihuahua, he’s kind of used to that reaction…
I’ve been a bit busy getting the garden up to scratch. The weekend started at the plant school and I got some tomato plants and seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes, and a few bits and pieces to ease the work. Making it easy is the main thing these days, I am not the young spring chicken I once was. To that end, I have an electric tiller to get the rough digging done and then finish the job with a human powered rake. The toms went in almost immediately. We should be frost free by now. Then I planted the spuds and decided to call it a day after a few hours thrashing around in the soil.
Sunday was archery club, so I didn’t get much done there. Today has been an onion day and I discovered I had bought far more than I intended to plant. However, they are all in the ground now, so I have a bit extra to do in the morning as it took me an age to get them all in. Add to that the collecting of my dear wife who will be home again in the evening and I reckon I’ll have a long and busy day of it tomorrow.
I enjoy these little interludes where she isn’t at home. I get to see the TV I want to see, eat what I want to and come and go as I please. Don’t get that wrong, I miss her and worry about her, but a little absence is a good thing and definitely makes the heart grow fonder.
Both the dog and I look forward to her return.

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You Dirty Rat

Posted by Exile on March 28, 2022

As James Cagney never actually said….

I’ve had rats in my garden. Two of them. One much larger than the other. City ordinances here dictate that I report them to the local council who then send a rat-catcher out to rid us of them. Usually by placing poison around the area and hoping that the rat eats that instead of the spilled bird seed that I feed a flock of about 60 birds with every day. That didn’t happen, but I thought I needed to respond to the infestation in some way, so I shot the big one with an air rifle. I know I hit him high in the back and from above, so I’m pretty sure I killed him, even if he did manage to make it back to the hole he came out of.
I’ve found the hole. It is situated next to the main drain from the house. The rat-catcher came back and I showed him the tunnel. We poked a smoke generator down it and, right enough, it seems the drain has collapsed. Time to involve the insurance company then and get it fixed.
I haven’t seen the smaller rat since I shot the big one, so perhaps I have managed to scare her away.
I did get some film on a trail camera but I haven’t seen her out and about in daylight hours.
The rats we have here are known as brown rats. Rattus Norvegicus, to be exact. The largest of the rat species, at least here in Europe. I’ve done a bit of research since having been visited by them.
“Dirty rat” is a resounding misnomer. They actually groom themselves more often than cats. They probably have a bad reputation because of the outbreak of plague way back in the late middle ages. It wasn’t the rats that caused it. It was actually the fleas they carried. The rats were immune but we humans weren’t. The flea bite was the infection point. Rats make good pets. They are intelligent, trainable and are employed in some unexpected areas. They can sniff out explosives, land mines and tuberculosis. They are also quite affectionate in captivity. I’m sure we’ve all heard of “lab rats”.
I’ve made a decision about my treatment of them. I’ve changed my mind about simply killing them off. I realise they can cause problems for farmers and grain stores, but I have neither a farm nor a store. Once we get the drains fixed, they won’t be back. Their exit, or entry way into my garden, will be gone. They will doubtless continue to forage, as do all wild creatures, but with the advancements in medicine since the great plagues, I realise we have little to fear from them. I’m going to let live. Stripping the world of these creatures will not enhance our existence. In fact, it may do us immeasurable damage.
The poison in the garden has been removed.

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He Ain’t Heavy…

Posted by Exile on March 2, 2022

Remember that? The Hollies. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…
I’ve taken on some volunteer work. We have an organisation here that looks after our war veterans. We also have a huge organisation that supports athletes and all form of sports. Someone, at some point, thought it might be a good idea to bind part of the former to part of the latter and so it was that “Soldatersporten” (soldier sports) was born. I am now a part of that.
Long story done short; a couple of these veterans want to take part in the Invictus games in Holland later this year. They are archers. The organisation wanted someone to be the group co-ordinator. They were having problems finding someone so they contacted all the local archery clubs and then they found me. Well, they found our club chairman and he put the idea to me. I said OK and we let them know I was available. A veteran myself, a qualified trainer and I had the time to be there at the archery range.
I was accepted for the job in a moment…

A couple of them served in Bosnia. A dirty little war and it has left its mark. My lads are suffering with PTSD and, thankfully, no physical injuries. Others, I believe, served in the Afghan. We don’t talk about that much. I let them come and go as they please and we accept each other as we are. So far, its all been good and I do actually enjoy being around these men. They have a black sense of humour that I have sometimes missed. They train hard, two of them are doing extremely well and I can’t really help them any more. They are ready for competition already. Now it is just a matter of training and achieving the consistent accuracy. I cheer and encourage. And that is enough, apparently. Any problems that arise are placed in my lap and I have to get it sorted. This is mainly equipment and facilities and coordination that I am talking about. I’m not a therapist.
I have achieved some form of acceptance. One of them said, “We’re glad they found you. We were afraid they would find some civvie who doesn’t have a clue what we’ve been through.”
Commendation indeed, even if it was hard won in a totally different war torn environment.
We’re all damaged…. we just don’t show it or discuss it except, maybe, to or with each other.

That’s brotherhood for you..

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Made in Germany

Posted by Exile on March 1, 2022

And that is about all I have to go on…
I rescued this little no.3 bench plane from my late father in law’s shed. It has no markings on it other than “No.3” and “Made in Germany”, which was forced upon that land after the last great war in Europe. Everything made there had to be so marked. It was meant as a form of punishment for German industry but they took it upon themselves to produce quality goods, so the whole punishment thing backfired and their goods became desirable again. They turned it into a sign of quality. So, I reckon this was made somewhere shortly after 1945.
This is actually a good little plane. There isn’t much to go wrong. It was probably cheap to produce, which would have been important at that time in history. The body is cast iron, the blade holds an edge. There is no frog to speak of, the blade simply rests inside the body and the cap is merely a piece of pressed thin stainless steel with a screw to hold it in place. The blade is moved by two yellow metal barrel nuts, which fit into cut-outs on the blade, on threaded rods. I have no idea what wood the handles are made of but they are comfortable to hold. Probably beech, but I don’t know that for sure. Adjusting the blade with this arrangement gives not only depth of cut but automatically includes lateral adjustment. I know some purists out there don’t like this much, but I do. It is practical simplicity.

It was not in good condition when I retrieved it from the depths of a relatively damp shed. Light rust and the usual corrosion that comes with years of not being used. I stripped it down, polished the sole and sides, sharpened and cleaned the blade. Everything one does when initiating a new tool was done here. I intended to give it to my grandson but he wanted a Stanley, so he got one. Actually, the Stanley is very similar to this one. Same set up.
This means that I get to keep this little piece of history. I have used the plane, before I invested in my Clifton No.3. The two do not compare. The Clifton is superb. That having been said, this little old plane does work and, when set up properly, it works very well. It is also very light compared to the Clifton, so this is a plane that one could easily take along to any job and still get the work done. For now, it rests on the shelf in the iShed. I do grab it occasionally to do some light work that does not require a pristine finish and I’m happy to leave it there, within reach and within view and to remind me of a man that I much respected.

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The Bench

Posted by Exile on February 12, 2022

Every woodworker needs a bench at which to work. I have a built in bench in my shed, Not big, not elaborate, but nonetheless functional. I haven’t the room for a free standing bench. One day, and maybe sooner than later, I will have that room. When that day comes, I’ll be building this one in full size. Hard to see from the image here, but this one is a miniature. I built it from scraps of wood from previous projects. It is a copy of Rex Kruegers English Bench.

Rex has a woodworking Youtube channel and I like to see what he gets up to. After popular demand to see more on types of benches and being keen to get people working for themselves, Rex designed and built this for his channel and made the plans free for people to download and get cracking. He’s worth watching if you are keen to learn and his way of doing things is both simple and appealing. I’ll leave a link…

Making this tiny bench took me some time. I had to mill all the parts from scratch, which took some time at the bandsaw. I tried to get my wood proportionally correct. I couldn’t use all the fasteners he used but luckily I have glue. OK, I did find some screws that would pass for tiny carriage bolts but hey, you can’t have it all.

And just to give you an idea of the size of the finished bench, here’s another picture. That’s a full size no. 3 bench plane.
I sent the pictures to Rex. He loved it. I had added one little modification. When I eventually get to build this monster, I will add a small shelf between the aprons at one end of the bench, which is visible in this image.
There are things one needs around one while working but one does not wish to clutter the working area.
So there you go. Room for a mug, telephone, glue, sharpening stones, pipe and tobacco, etc. I can’t wait for the time to come and the chance to build the real thing.
Next? A miniature shaving horse?
We’ll see…

Rex Kreuger:

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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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