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! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Batting Gloves Re-palmed!

Early in my cricket career, I did not have my own pair of batting gloves but used the ones from our club kit. They were not in good condition and our club could not afford to keep good ones either. It was in the early 1980s.  

Looking back, I shudder to think about how in our youthful exuberance courageously faced good fast bowlers who operated with the hard, new cricket ball up the batting order with very poor physical protection.

In 1982, my friend Girish Nikam had given me his batting gloves as he did not need them anymore.  I was batting in the top order at that time.   It was only a slightly better pair than the ones in our team kit.  I was using it in a match and to my bad luck, the ball rose suddenly and broke the ring finger.  It happened at a crucial time that put me out of action for 6-7 weeks and cut short a season that had begun well.  With it I had to miss out on the Under-25 Mysore Zone, a crucial tournament that is often a launchpad for talent to go higher. Just by coincidence, the accident happened on the same day when Hindi film actor Amitabh Bachchan also sustained a serious injury while shooting for the film 'Coolie'. 

I continued to use Girish's gloves as he had by then stopped playing active cricket.  This picture is taken at Poona in 1986 and I think I am wearing those at pre-match practice   My confidence had regained to some extent, post-fracture.

Around 86-87, I happened to notice a pair of junked gloves under the spiral staircase in our club secretary's house where all our club/team's cricket paraphernalia used to be kept. The pair was of good quality leather, having good padding on the fingers and thumb.  It had been discarded because its leather palms had been badly tattered and worn out.  It was the personal pair of one of my team mates, David Purushottam.  Our club secretary agreed to my request to take them.
I had heard of batting gloves being 're-palmed' at some cost.  Why not I repair the pair myself?  What you see this picture is the third re-palming [cotton cloth] I had made.  The pieces were hand sewn on to the gloves.   They used to last well and helped me play with comfort and confidence.  I later added an extra  piece of hard foam to the first two fingers of the right hand, a spot susceptible for taking blows. This came in handy a few times as it took a few blows and absorbed the impacts very well and saved me from injury.  You know, the cricket ball is very hard and approaches batters at great speed. 

The repaired-pair had become more popular than my self-stitched caps I wore for the matches!  I stopped using them after I got a top-class pair from another team mate J.Srinath, who went on to play for the country.  I'm still using them 14-15 years since I got them, though I bat lower in the order, but protection is a must anywhere.  A helmet is another need these days and I want to do something what Mike Brearley of England or our Sunil Gavaskar did in designing their own skull protection caps, some day.

I was not alone in doing such things!

I came to know that Jack Russell, one of the best wicket-keepers of England, used to repair his wicket-keeping gloves himself.  But then I was already doing that - I had  stitched a crude pair of cotton wicket-keeping gloves just for kicks before I played any real cricket in the mid 70s!  Russell's love for his cap and his painting talent is legendary.  I wish we had met!! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paint buckets - how to 'unstick'

Let me admit that this post does not exactly fit in to this blog, but I thought this is the best place, considering the nature of the project.

Soon after a paint job at home, we stack up the empty paint buckets [without lids] in some corner.  We do not find time to clean/scrape residue paint in the buckets.  We do not like to give all of them away as they are items of great use.  Several weeks or months later when we want one of them for use, we find the stacked buckets are stuck firmly to one another. 

Has anyone tried single-handed, separating two esp. two such 20-litre [5-gallon] paint buckets that are stacked and stored for more than a year? You will only know how  tricky it is only if you have had such an opportunity to do that yourself.   That is why many people have shared on the web how to unstick such buckets. Just type "how to unstick 2 plastic buckets" in the Google box and you will see several links! 

I took these pictures for this post after they were taken apart.... how, I will tell.

Little discoveries often happen either due to a desperate situation or sudden flashes of rare brilliance. It was the former combined with the latter that resulted from this puzzle project which was shelved for a year.  

I tried the most obvious thing - trying to pull them apart by hand.  Futile effort, because there will be no proper hold anywhere except the handles. Like a fool, I tried the same thing several times! *Smile*  It took me quite a while to realize something else needed to be done. So I turned to the web.

Idea No.1.   Fail.
Idea No.2. No effect on my buckets.

Frustration.  I was as determined as I was desperate to take them apart.  There had to be some way out.

I tried heating the buckets in hot sun hoping that the air in the bottom bucket will warm and expand and pop the 'intruder' out more easily. But no.  I  poured some hot soapy water to the 'joint' and hung the top handle from a long hook and tried to push the bottom bucket down gripping whatever I could on the bucket brim and edges, but it wont budge and slide even a hair's breadth.  

I felt like 'kicking the bucket' [only in the virtual sense].  

Suddenly, in a genius-like flash, an old mason's trowel popped up as my answer instead of kicking the bucket in frustration.  I realized that the stuck portion will be only about an inch wide, just below the brim and not the whole of the stuck portion down, because of the slight taper.  I took out this trowel from the garden shed wasting no time.  I had already wasted enough valuable holiday time. [Buckets you are seeing are cleaned ones after they were successfully taken apart.]

I pushed it in all around the perimeter where the top bucket had 'stuck in'. I did two rounds and then hung it again for pulling. 

Pulling them apart needed good gripping places which was out of question.  So I took two wooden pieces, used one as a mallet and the other 'like' a chisel hitting the brim of the bottom bucket   Lo and behold!  There was some sliding.  I could see the printed matter on the bucket slowly showing up letter by letter a I banged lightly. Joy!  The soapy water might have helped, but surely the trowel was a great solution in pushing the paint off to release the adhesion. See the bucket to the right and see the paint marks around where the handle rests.  That was where it had stuck.

Once the first pair was released thus, it was like drinking water on the second one, instead of kicking the bucket. 

The trowel also came in as a very handy tool to scrape the paint from the insides before using a steel-scrubber.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A little shaving mirror

There were quite a few mirrors at home.  Yet, I got kicks from creating one of my own, when my shaving years had arrived. I did not want to remove the vintage mirrors from their places for my beard shaving programme, each time. So I wanted one to be in place and it needed to be a compact one, which I hung from a hook fixed to the window frame.  

I had a rusty stand from a cheap mirror that had obviously broken. I had a rectangular piece of unwanted rosewood that suited the size of a possible mirror.  As soon as a decision was taken to make a new mirror out of these, I went to a glass cutting shop and got the mirror from a waste piece paying a penny [in Mysore, kaasu!].  I had taken the wood for size.  How to fix the mirror to the wood?  My Mecannos toy set had its small accessories. I picked up four 'Ls'. Screws of suitable size were with me.  It did not take long to create a mirror stand that can be hung from a hook or kept at any angle resting on the adjustable stand. 

Here it is:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A hand trowel for gardening

There was an old pair of hedge-pruning scissors which I tried to use in my early gardening days when I had no proper tools.  I used to try and cut small twigs with it and it was not in good condition.  It must have been from the 1930s.  We had no hedge, at least in my time. This huge pair of scissors was junk for a few decades, now one of the two cutting parts was minus - it had broken.  It was time to unjunk.  One handle of wood was good and just fine for attaching something.  There was a rusty mason's trowel, quite a wide one, which a mason had left behind because it had got separated from its rivets.  


I took them to my friend Ramu to join the two together.  He did it simply by making two holes to the flat portion of the scissor handle [see picture] to match the two holes on the trowel and drove two screws in them.  Lo, a crude trowel.was ready!  It is a very handy tool to lift soil. I bent the trowel slightly on the sides to keep the picked up soil in place. 

Right behind the trowel is a Charaka [spinning wheel].