Two Big Beasts

A couple of weeks ago I had a message from my son – could he have the use of a space 3m x 3m in my workshop? He had put a shipping container on the garden of a house he owns and rents out in the same road as his home with the intention of using it as a workshop. But the a neighbour complained to the Council who told him it was ‘not in keeping’ and must be removed. That left him with all his tools stored in a small shed in his own smaller garden (which already houses his office) but nowhere to use them. Of course I said ‘Yes’ and by rearranging my stuff created the space he needed.

So a flurry of parcels and packages arrived and he sent me a list of materials he wanted me to order from the local Builders’ Merchant. Then they were followed, last Monday, by the man himself plus his cat. Not your average moggy, not even a pedigree cat. This is an F3 Savannah Cat, at least twice the size of my more humble ones. But a lovely softie who acts more like a dog in many ways and obviously thought that my garden was Heaven! He did give my dogs and cats a bit of a shock though – not quite sure what sort of big beast had entered their domain!

Odin explores this new territory

My son is a software developer but, like his father, my father and my paternal grandfather, loves making things in wood. It transpired that the workshop space was needed to build a computer controlled wood cutting machine thus combining his two passions. He has a small one at home which can cut things about the size of an A4 sheet of paper but having seen its potential he wanted one which could do handle anything up to a full sheet of plywood – 2.4m x 1.2m! Hence the large area of floor space required.

With intermittent help from me to ‘hold the other end of’ and a couple of trips out to get things he hadn’t realised he would need, he built the worktop the sheet of wood will sit on. It is 2 layers of heavy ply with framing and 2 sheets of insulation between them to stop it flexing.

The cutting head has to move in 3 dimensions – up and down the bed, from side to side and deeper or shallower, so he also needed a gantry which travels along the sides of the bed (the x axis)) with another piece which moves side to side (y axis) and can also raise or lower the cutter (z axis). The gantry and other wooden parts run on small wheels on tracks and are pulled into position by motors which have thin rubber tracks around a cog wheel – think caterpillar tracks. The motors are controlled by the computer.

This bit travels from side to side on the gantry and the top part raises or lowers the head

By Friday evening the thing was built and he had wired up 2 of the 4 motors but ran out of time (he had to drive home early on Saturday morning) to connect the other 2 let alone test it all and make something. He will come back as soon as he is able to finish it and then we can start playing with it! As you can see it is pretty massive – definitely a big beast!

Now all I have to do is tidy up the rest of the workshop!

My reward is that I will be seeing my son more frequently and can ask him to programme the machine to cut wood out for me and drill the holes where they should go – a sort of ‘made to measure’ IKEA in my garden 😉

Blessings # 5 – E is for Electronic Communication

When my maternal grandmother died, two months after I was born, my Mother’s older sister took a stack of small change to the nearest telephone kiosk to contact my Mum. There was no phone in my parent’s house but a neighbour who had one had agreed to help. So Peggy dialled 100 for the operater, gave her the neighbours number, and waited to be connected. The neighbour answered and ran to our house, my Mother snatched me up out of my cot and ran back with her to take the call whilst Peggy shoved pennies into the phone to keep the connection and the operater no doubt listened in.

Every Sunday afternoon my parents wrote a letter home as they had done all their adult lives since moving out from their parent’s places. And every week a reply came from one of their siblings. I was 5 or 6 before a phone was installed at our house. After that the letters were replaced with phone calls but carefully timed so they weren’t too expensive.

Subscriber Trunk Dialling so you could make long distance calls without going through an operater, phones with buttons not a mechanical dial, home computers, dial up modems with their sing song tune as they tried to connect, email, cordless phones and car phones the size of a brick, then mobile phones equally pretentious, laptops and tablets, wifi and iPhones…. All that in my lifetime! Now BT is abandoning its telephone kiosks because they get so little use and for many people a landline connection is only used for broadband access.


Whilst we are all self-isolating my children check up on me every day with Whatsapp and we chat with each other in a 3 way conversation sharing things to raise a smile and commiserating over the frustrations. My daughter emails me drafts of her Open University essays for me to comment on. Friends keep in touch by email, whatsapp and facebook. I read blogs from around the world, see how life is lived in far flung places, get inspiration from the projects others share. Thanks to wifi most of those phone sockets we installed so we could plug the laptop modem in in any room in the house, are redundant. I could write a blog post sitting in the garden! If I had a mobile signal here I would have even more options.

I realise that being constantly available is not always a good thing. Employers can abuse staff by expecting them to work outside their contracted hours. Social media can be used to spread lies or to bully. But I for one would find this isolation a lot harder without being able to reach out and make contact with people instantly and easily – all you lovely people who read my blog and whose blogs I follow included!