Monday, November 24, 2008

Wedging Table

I scoured the web looking for some plans for a wedging table, and I did find Brad Sondahl's diagram which influenced heavily my design. Here is a .pdf of my plan with the materials lists (both cut and uncut). I notice that I neglected to put the rail kits for the sliding doors (upper and lower rails for a 48" and 24" long opening). The dimensions will be 50" x 25", with six 4x4 posts notched for the three 2x4 frames. The two lower 2x4 frames are 48" x 20 3/4" and the upper frame is 25 13/16" 20 3/4 ". The frames can be nailed, but I will be bolting with 3/8" x 4" bolts where I can, and then nailing where I can't bolt. There will be two plaster wedging surfaces at 26" high, and then at 36" high and covered with heavy canvas. The plaster may need to be secured to the plywood, which I haven't totally solved how to do yet. But if it is needed, I was thinking of trying some of those two sided sticky rubber sheets used for sealing roofs. There is a large space underneath for storage, then a small space accessible from the side as well. I will be adding a cutting wire on there somewhere as well. I will add some photo's once I build it to show the final product.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So who is Khnum anyway?

According to Ancient Egypt Online, he makes babies (from Nile clay) on a potters wheel and places them into their mothers wombs. He can also bless them. He was the head honcho of Egyptian dieties before Ra came along and took over, and some sources say that Khnum crafted the sun and the other gods as well on his potting wheel.

I just thought it was awesome that there is a mythology with a God of pottery.


One little known fact about our household is that our sons eat either pancakes or waffles almost every morning. It has become a part of their daily routine. This 10lb bag will make about 220 pancakes, costs about $5.50 and it will make enough pancakes or waffles to last about 30 days. I cook up a quarter to half this bag at a time on the weekends when I have more time, wrap up serving sizes of six in waxed paper and freeze them so that the boys can just heat up their own breakfasts in the morning. When I'm cooking them up on Sunday morning, its just as easy to make a few extra dozen and the clean up is the same. My boys have mastered the art of heating up foods in the toaster oven without getting burned, which liberates them to do some of their own cooking as they feel the need. They get a sense of satisfaction in being self sufficient as well.

For comparison, Eggo Frozen Buttermilk Pancakes have 12 pancakes in a box and cost $3.89. Yeah, that's about $.33 a pancake, as opposed to my $.025 per pancake or 13 times more expensive (plus the cost of cooking and waxed paper).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's time for a potters mark.

I've been throwing about 6 to 10 items a day for about a month now, and I'm building up enough stock to need to start bisque firing some of it. But, I realized that none of my stuff even has my initials on it. I set out today to design a unique potters mark. I chose ægishjálmr, which is a symbol worn on helms for protection. The letters below are my first name in elder futhark.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sensory Processing

I never gave this subject much thought until my wife started pursuing what was different about our first son Rane. Soon after he could walk and talk, it became apparent in ECFE play groups that our son was a little different than the other children. During "Circle Time", when all the parents and kids sit in a circle to dance and sing, our son wanted to leave the circle to go sit off in a quiet corner to play with toys alone. In play groups, it was our son who would suddenly blow up emotionally and need to be separated to keep him from hitting (kicking, biting, etc.) the other children. We have some close friends who have a boy with Asberger's syndrome, which is a milder form of Autism. At first my wife was suspicious that our son had some other variant of Autism, but many of the indicators were just not apparent for Rane. Rane was very picky about everything including food, clothing, riding in the car, bath temperature, getting his head wet, bedding, toys, sounds and smells. At 2 years, it was also clear he was beginning to lag behind his peers in muscle coordination. Now, I attributed a part of that to the fact he has always been in the upper 90's percentiles for height, while being pretty normal for weight. This means he's been growing taller faster than his peers. At 3 years old, he was over 3 feet tall. Now, just turning age 8, he is 54 inches tall and weighs just over 52 lbs. which puts him in the 93rd percentile for height, and 26th percentile in weight. Due to the diligent research by my wife she determined that my son was exhibiting the symptoms of "Sensory Integration Dysfunction". It took me awhile and some extensive reading to come around to understanding that our son had some special challenges, but now that we understand it better we can do things to help his nervous system integrate normally.

Unfortunately, Sensory Processing Dysfunction, while discovered and written about for 30 years, is just now becoming recognized by the professional cognitive professions (neurology, psychology) and so it is not listed in the DSM-IV (the bible of psychological issues). This means that to the school, government, and to the insurance companies this disorder is not recognized and so help (and often even understanding) is absent. My wife attributes the problem to the gender of those making the discoveries and publishing the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

I mention this here in this blog since I have come to realize in reflecting back to my childhood that my sons struggles mirror my own issues. It is clear to me now that other people in my family also probably had challenges with SPD, but without understanding it can be mistaken for behavioral issues. Traditionally, I believe often people feel that these "willful children" just need more discipline. Rane has trouble in school, but not because he doesn't understand what is being taught. For example, on some tests in math he scores in the 98th percentile, but when the same material is given orally he will score very low ( even zero at times) because he shuts down aural processing at times. In order to test a child with SPD accurately, some special accommodations would need to be given to insure that sensory issues do not interfere.

You can imagine then that the traditional learning model of the teacher giving a lecture and the class listening would be a hindrance to a child with aural processing issues. For example, I can say something simple like "Do you want pudding or jello with your lunch?" and my son will reply "What?". Then I will ask nicely, "Ok, what did I just ask you?" and he will repeat it back verbatim. The issue is not one of hearing, but of processing. It took extra time for his brain to process the sounds and make sense of them.

Handwriting and printing is a nightmare for my son, first because of the lag in his fine motor control and also because of processing issues in the corpus callosum (any activity which causes the brain to cross the mid-line left to right, or bilateral coordination in doing one thing with side of the body and something else with the other). The development of the corpus callosum is delayed in males anyway, and for my son it is especially delayed. My scientific hypothesis is that SPD is related to a very slow development of glial cells and myelination in pre- and post-natal neural development which causes incomplete neural development until later in childhood. I've read some studies that indicate pre-natal stress can affect glial development. This is a childhood neural processing issue which can be overcome with appropriate neural focused occupational therapy.

"Our skin is our largest sensory organ, followed closely by our muscles and skeleton, connected by our nervous system and governed by our brain. The sensory systems feed information from our environment, through sense receptors, and neural impulses via our nervous system, directly to the brain. The brain then organizes it, sends it back through the nervous system for use as understanding, adaptation, learning, and skill development.

When this system functions well, it allows a person to interact with their environment efficiently, developing necessary motor and language skills, and appropriate social/emotional behavior. When this system is unable to organize the information appropriately, a variety of symptoms can present; motor delays, tactile defensiveness, learning disorders, social or emotional difficulties, speech, and language deficits or attention disorders."

Thankfully, Patricia Wilbarger and her daughter Julia have developed therapies for successfully treating these neurodevelopmental disorders. It took me awhile to understand the holistic nature of how physical therapies, like brushing or joint compressions will make vast improvements to my childs brain development in other areas and make him less prone to melt down due to sensory overload. On the opposite side, my son also seeks sensory input which can sometimes be inappropriate such as pushing or in other ways bothering other children. Some of this is behavioral, but there is a core underlaying issue with sensory processing we are working to correct. The appropriate behavior would be easier for a child with a better developed vestibular system, and he wouldn't need to seek so much additional proprioceptive input to stimulate his nervous system.

The recent revelation of my struggle is because of my sons issues, and I realize that there is some genetic factor in this. Here is a check list of potential symptoms that an adult might experience, and running through the list I can identify with quite a number of them. I have lived with this same problem long enough to overcome much of it on my own, or I've developed coping mechanisms to deal with my issues. My experience with elementary school was not good as I recall, and I know my mother did all she could to help me keep up with my peers. I also realize how I was pretty horrible to my younger sister, using her as my main source for keeping my nervous system at "high alert", just as my son fights with his younger brother for proprioceptive stimulation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

No need for 3 phase power.

Yesterday, I stopped by the nearby distributor of Skutt kilns, Minnesota Clay, and spoke with one of the helpful staff there who also run around and repair kilns for people. He said that it would be pretty inexpensive to replace the 208V components with 240V components and run the kiln on single phase power. This is fortunate, but I had already found a place that describes how to build your own rotary phase converter. I was in the process of trying to find sources for all the components I would need. It will be cheaper to convert it to run on single phase power. The picture to the left is what my kiln would look like brand new.

I also picked up 150lbs of clay. 50lbs of White Eathenware, 50lbs of Rainy Lake, and 50lbs of miscellaneous pug mill left overs for practice and experimentation. When I got it home the boys wanted to make some little animals with clay, so I broke out some of the cheap pug mill left overs. Christian and I made a nice little dog, and Rane made some space marines and a tank.

The experimental clay is very hard to work with, but as I explained to the boys as I was trying to throw this last night, "Sometimes the clay tells you that it doesn't want to be a pretty pot." And, "In art, there are sometimes mistakes, but more often happy accidents." I liked how this pot wanted to be more organic, and it reminded me of something I would see in the woods so I left it this way.

I have some "pretty" ones too, which I will post once they are baked.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And the winner is...

 ...a pair of Chippewa boots I bought slightly used on e-bay. They only have a few marks from weld spatters, a scrape here or there, and fit like a glove. Total cost with shipping was $25. They have full metatarsal protection, and the soles are rated to 400F.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's an S100, not an S50.

Saturday, after we had breakfast, the boys had gymnastics until about 11am. Then we went and picked up the rental truck and drove the 98 miles to Pine City and back to get the 2 kilns, and the pottery wheel. Rane was able to go over and spend the day with his friend Josh, but Christian's friends were busy so he had to ride along with us for the day. It was not much fun for him, but he colored pictures, did puzzles, and we read him some stories for fun. We didn't get back until about 5:30 and we were pretty tired from the ordeal, so we made dinner, popped some popcorn and watched a family movie (Night at the Museum).

This morning I pulled the truck around back, and unloaded it. It turns out the wheel was still packed in the original shipping box and is an S100, not an S50 as I first thought. I tested it and it works purr-fectly. I'm most jazzed about having the wheel, since I think the only way to really get good at something is to do it at least a few hours every day. This wheel new is $1206, so for the same price I essentially got the two kilns for free.

The kilns are in pretty rough shape, but the repairs (according to my inventory of damage) shouldn't be more than about $750. I intend to fix them one at a time though over the next three to six months. Until then, I can fire my stuff at school, or at a nearby shop. The newer kiln is a Skutt KS-1027-3; it is missing the slab, the stand, and has about a dozen damaged bricks, and needs the very top and very bottom elements replaced. The older one is a Skutt 235, and also needs about a dozen bricks replaced, a stand, and some cement patching on the slab and lid. Both need some TLC, cleaning and a good polish job. While I more deeply examined the specifications, I found that both kilns, if set up correctly, will fire up to cone 10. There is also an additional 4.5" section that can be added or removed from either kiln. They were stored in a pole barn so they are dusty and the hardware is getting corroded. I just hope the electronics are still sound.

I'm not sure I can wire this place to also handle two 3 phase 11000 watt devices running at the same time though. I have already placed a call into my local electric guru, but we traded voice mails on Friday. Pretty soon I'm afraid I will need to install my own power plant here. Someday I will have to discuss on this blog the pros and massive cons of having an entirely electric house. I know I'm already pulling up to 300 amps in here, and the previous owner was hugely into welding.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Banditry

 One minor issue with jack-o-lanterns around here is the abundance of bandits. Racoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and some other miscellaneous foragers love this feast we set before them.