Rufdog.

Don’t back down

Sleeping Dangerously

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sleepingdangerously
Whilst trawling the internet’s soft underbelly, I stumbled across this astonishing photograph by Bend to Squares. The mix of beauty, relaxation, danger and potential horror makes it mesmerizing to me. A stunning photograph and a work of genius.

Bend to Squares’ Flickr site

Written by rufdog

July 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

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Paving the way in Afganistan

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pavingtheway

Like many, I watched with emotion, the news broadcasts of the recent eight fallen soldiers being taken through Wootton Bassett on their last homeward journey. I sense a change of mood about this war, I sense the people are sitting up and taking notice.

I don’t normally get political with my posts, but this poignant cartoon from The Times’ Gerald Scarfe says more to me than all the political and news commentary put together.

Sourced from The Times’ Cartoon section

Gerald Scarfe’s Website

Written by rufdog

July 16, 2009 at 9:09 am

Coming of Age

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blue028Relaxing after a mad run around. The sun bringing out his newly acquired brown whiskers.

It’s been a while since I mashed the keyboard about the adventures of Blue.
To kick off, several weeks ago he stopped pissing like a girl. Yes, he now pees like a proper man-dog. I’ll be honest, I was starting to get a teeny bit concerned about his ladylike peeing antics. So I’m quietly chuffed.

It’s always a comical time to watch a growing puppy learn the man-dog peeing business. They don’t always get it quite right. Cocking the wrong leg, falling over, peeing on their own foot are the chief pitfalls. But, it’s fair to say that Blue seemed to take it all in his stride.  Starting from a standard lady-dog-peeing position, he would suddenly remember, mid-flow, to cock his leg a little. Each time the leg got higher, until he got the hang of it and is now peeing like a full on man-dog.

blue029Playing ‘Sticks Top Trumps’

Sticks. The other thing I’m quite pleased about is Blue’s ability to select big ass manly sticks to carry around. No, non of your wussy half foot twigs, no sir… proper sticks that are so long and thick they bloody hurt as they clatter into my legs when he walks alongside me. Brilliant. When we go past another dog with a stick, it’s like a secret game of stick Top Trumps. The other owner knows it too, eyes narrow as we weigh up opposing stick sizes… yep. You’ve been well and truly trumped.

blue030First time off the lead

Energy. As I’ve documented in the past, Blue has some serious energy. Any thoughts of him calming down have been tied to a lead weight and thrown out the window. His energy levels are now at Defcom 4. Six mile walks aren’t enough. This has led to a big step in his growing up…  running off the lead.

With a pinch of nervousness, I selected a location miles from roads and, with not a soul in site, unhooked his lead and dug into my pocket for the all important tennis ball. Jeeezzzus, he can run. He moves so fast he can’t brake in time. In fact, the first few times he needed to learn how to stop from such a speed. He still overshoots the ball by about ten feet, legs scrambling to change direction, occasionally falling over, tongue lolloping.

It’s great to see him running free, although I don’t think it’ll ever get to the stage of walking completely off-lead along side me, he’s just too much of a nutter. On normal walking duties, he seems happy enough to be on the end of his new 8m retractable lead, it doesn’t bother him one bit.

blue031Catching his breath after a good ol’ game of fetch the tennis ball

Shagging. After a few hours walking and bolting after tennis balls, what better than a quick kip followed by a quick humping session. Dunno why, but I find it highly amusing when he grabs his cuddly toy and gives it a humping. It usually catches me off guard. I’m slumped on the sofa, feet up on the coffee table watching the TV…  in the corner of my eye I see his furry ass pumping away. The toy in question is a fluffy dog he has had from around 8 weeks old. He throws it around the room a bit, then grabs it by the neck, in the correct orientation, and gives it some. The toy is too small, so his humping is pretty unsuccessful and momentary, but funny as hell nonetheless.

Health. He went to the vets last week for his full dog-MOT. Weighing in at 11 KGs at seven months old, all is as it should be, all is in order. The vet said he was ‘a beautiful dog’, not in aesthetic terms (which he is too), but in body shape, muscle mass and all over condition. He is apparently pretty much all muscle. This is good news, but I fear that my new walking shoes aren’t gonna last too long. I wonder how his brother and sisters are getting on. I wonder if they too are stark raving bonkers.

Communication. He talks, or rather sings a lot too. Especially when he doesn’t get his own way. He chews my sleeve, I tell him ‘No’. He sing-howl-warbles at me, it’s brilliant. I’ll have to get a recording and post it on here.

If you mimic him, the decibels increase, culminating in a good ol’ bark. An incredibly deep bark. This is due to his Tibetan genes. They are renowned for possessing a bark of a much larger dog. This is one of the reasons why, historically, Tibetan monks used them as guard/watch dogs around their temples. Probably not Blue though, he’d probably eat the temple, run up Everest, shag a mountain bunny then sing about it.

Written by rufdog

July 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

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Project Hex: Building an Hexagonal Bird Table (Part 4)

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hex029

Having got the roof fully tiled, focus shifted to the finish of the roof. As previously mentioned, I delved online to research  staining and weatherproof wood.

I could have simply slapped on some standard woodstain, but I wanted a more natural finish, something that lets the grain of the wood be the star.

A technique that caught my interest was one which naturally ages wood. Wood greys with age, just look at an old garden fence, or the oak timbers of a Tudor house. Some woods darken more than other, like English oak. This is due to it having higher levers of tannin than other woods. Over time sunlight and the environment darkens the wood.

The technique I found is pretty simple. You pop some wire wool into a jar of malt vinegar and leave it for a few days to a week. Brush this onto the wood and a chemical reaction occurs. The wood darkens with a beautiful grey-silverish tint, which deepens over a few days. If the wood you want to ‘age’ has low levels of tannin in it, then you need to add some… simply use stewed tea bags. Tea has high amounts of tannin, yes the wood gets a tea colouring to it, but the main aim is to get the invisible tannins into the wood. This is what I did to the roof of the bird table. Maybe red wine would have the same effect?? I didn’t try it.

The beauty of this technique is that it isn’t a stain, it is a chemical reaction. In essence, it is aging of the wood in fast forward. The effect is wonderful, the vinegar/steel mix collects and pools in grains, grooves, nick & dips. Here it darkens more than other areas, giving a very natural effect. The ‘aging’ vinegar concoction is pretty potent too. Apply it ‘neat’ and wood can go jet black in seconds. Whilst testing on some off-cuts, I found 1 to 20 dilution gave a slightly tinted effect. This is the technique I used, applying tint, allowing to dry, then repeating until I got the look I wanted.

hex021The first treatment of the vinegar/steel wool mixture, you can see the wood darken slightly.

hex024After a few treatments, the wood dries to a greyish-brown. You can see that the wood looks ‘aged’.

hex025Another shot showing the ‘aging’ process.

hex026The first treatment of tung oil goes on one aspect (the left hand side of this picture)

For weatherproofing, my research highlighted tung oil as the best option. The Chinese have been using the stuff for 1000’s of years to waterproof their boats. The reason it isn’t commonly used today is that it is a laborious task to achieve a good level of waterproofing. It isn’t difficult, it simply takes time. You have to apply it thinned down 50/50 with white spirit, so it soaks deep into the wood. Wait for it to dry, then repeat, gradually reducing the amount of thinner used. To do it properly, layer after layer after layer needs to be applied, eventually using it neat for several top coats.

The results are worth it, plus it has other benefits. It is not harmful to wildlife, as tung oil comes from a nut. Maintenance of the wood is easy, no sanding or scraping every year or so. Instead, every six to twelve months or so, simply brush some more tung oil onto the wood. It should be completely water tight, as the oil fills the gaps and fissures in the wood grain, then cures over time. I’m looking forward to seeing the rain bead off it in the garden, with the same satisfaction you get from a downpour on freshly waxed car bodywork ~ maybe that’s a bloke thing?

hex027The ridge joins were filled with black exterior sealant prior to applying the tung oil.

hex028The entire roof after a few applications of tung oil.

hex030Outside, drying in the sun.

hex031When the sunlight catches the wood, the natural translucent grain is brought out, giving a golden sheen.

hex032The untreated (‘un-aged’), but oiled base and pillars have a lovely golden colour.

hex033Reverse birds eye view… looking up into the eves.

The process has slowed down somewhat. As each application of tung oil needs to be left to thoroughly dry, it takes longer and longer between ‘coats’. This is due to the deep wood grains filling up with oil, so in soaks in less. It’s taking over two weeks for each application to dry now. Any ‘excess’ that is left on the wood surface will be ‘sanded’ down with 1000 grade wire wool – it’s more of a polishing than a sanding, plus it removes dust and contaminants that have stuck themselves to the oil. This result should be a satin gloss finish. I’ve periodically wiped away any excess on the roof tiles as I want a matt finish, plus ‘polishing’ the tiles would be a nightmare.

I am now at the stage of applying the third pure undiluted tung oil to all areas. I reckon that it will be waterproof in one more application, I will test with some water.

My focus is now on designing the stand and base. As the table is moderately heavy, the idea of having an integral hexagonal planter as the base seems the best way to go. When filled with soil and plants, there will be zero risk of the bird table blowing over in the wind.

Written by rufdog

July 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

Bonnie Scotland & Conquering Ben Nevis

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scotland_bennevis004View from the top of Ben Nevis

Having never visited Scotland before, I was raring to get up there when a few friends suggested we head north for a week in the Highlands.

The journey wasn’t bad, unlike the miserable weather. None of Scotland’s rugged beauty was visible from the car as we snaked our way to base camp near Fort William.

Once there, the seven of us settled into our comfortable, newly built lodges, had a few beers and hit the sack.
Next morning, the weather cleared enough for us to admire the imposing north face of the Glen Nevis range.

Dodging the drizzle, we managed to grab the best of the weather visiting some truly beautiful areas. Bathed in glorious sunshine, we dispatched the all-important Loch Ness, including a boat trip on the famous deep dark waters. Over the week we walked some lovely routes, a 13 mile walk here, a pub meal there, Neptune’s staircase, forest walks, Lochs Sunart and Lomond and a trip on the Jacobite ‘Harry Potter’ steam train were a few of the highlights. It’s a shame my four legged friend Blue wasn’t with me, he’d have loved the walks.

On Wednesday evening, a beer induced confidence led me to suggest that the 4409 feet of Ben Nevis looked like a piece of cake, and a plan to climb it on a forecasted sunny Friday was hatched.

On Friday morning I drowsily ignored my early alarm and woke up in a panic around 10.30. Completely unprepared, my mate Guy (who was the only mug to agree to the ‘expedition’) and myself arrived at the Glen Nevis visitor centre an hour later. A quick trip to the shop, to grab a map and an essential sun blocking baseball cap, we were set to go. It was glorious weather, the strength of the sun in Scotland seems amplified compared to middle England.

At 11.45ish we set off armed with a dismal food supply with the sun beating down. We had one round of sandwiches and a handful of cakes and biscuits between us. I hadn’t even had any breakfast. I say one round of sandwiches… it was meant to be one round each, but when it came to stop for lunch many hours later, Guy furiously discovered that he had left his lunch in the boot of the car. It wasn’t funny for him, but I couldn’t help laughing amid his swearing.

Prior to lunch, just ¾ of an hour in, I realised my grave error in thinking it would be easy. I knew I couldn’t make it, the sun was relentless, my legs like lead. I wolfed down a few Jaffa cakes, which helped immensely and slowly soldiered on, trying to keep up with my walking partner. It was tough for me, I find it incredibly tough hiking, even walking uphill, but incredibly easy downhill. I thought this was the norm, the status quo. It seems I was mistaken, a lot of people I have spoken to find it is vice versa for them.

We kept going, occasionally thinking we were close to the top, only to be thwarted by the numerous false summits. Soon we could see the snowfields, and knew we were close. Guy wanted to throw the towel in, but with a little persuasion we cracked on.

One more push and we made it, we summated Ben Nevis around 5.15pm on 29th May 2009. We were greeted by a remarkable view. The weather was perfect, bluebird skies and hundreds of peaks as far as the eye could see. It was truly stunning, breathtaking, staggering and unforgettable.

I found the whole experience quite emotional. I know Ben Nevis isn’t a big deal to serious walkers, but combined with the view, the feeling of achievement, genuinely elation and self-fulfilment I did feel very emotional. I also felt completely refreshed and re-energised. I sat next to the triangulation point and smoked a well-deserved Café Crème cigar. It was a bloody marvellous feeling.

A few hours later we were back at the base and heading back to the lodge, sunburned, knackered and starving. With our new found confidence, talk turned to completing the triple with Snowdon and Scafell Pike on the ‘next’ list.

After a large bowl of pasta, I went out on the deck with a beer and peacefully watched the pinky orange sunset slowly bathe the north face of my first ever ‘bagged’ Monroe, with a new found admiration and respect for it. I’m sure I’ll be back someday, with Blue by my side.

scotland001Rugged scenery became visible when the drizzle lifted

scotland_bennevis001A Tarn nestling on Ben Nevis

scotland_bennevis002Westerly view over Loch Linnhe towards the Isle of Mull

scotland_bennevis003Another westerly shot over the boulder fields

scotland_bennevis005A little higher, amongst the snowfields

scotland_bennevis006The old observatory on the summit

scotland_bennevis007I finally made it!

scotland_bennevis009We made it

scotland_bennevis008Me & Guy in the snowfields at the start of the descent

scotland_bennevis010Watching the sun set on the north face of Ben Nevis with a beer

Written by rufdog

June 11, 2009 at 9:39 am

Sun & Rain

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blue020
It’s been a while since I did a Blue update. As he has just passed his half year on this Earth, I thought a quick photo update was required. Recently the weather has been reminiscent of April, with the sun and showers. Blue doesn’t seem to care too much about the weather, he actually seems to have more ‘mental’ moments in the rain.

When he was much younger, I documented right here, that he had a bit of a commando nutter streak in him. He’d forgo the freshly cut and level lawn, opting instead to crash and bound his way through the undergrowth, weeds and deadwood at the edges of the garden. Well, as the Spring farmland crops have shot skywards, he has rekindled his talent for conquering tall fauna and flora.

Blue goes absolutely mental, running akin to a springbok in the tall grass and crops effortlessly. I tried to keep up with him in the tall wet grass during a downpour, and it was bloody hard work. He bounds through the green stuff with gusto, eventually landing, literally, at my feet exhausted, but always ready for more of the same with little encouragement.

Whether it’s rain or sun, he seems to thoroughly enjoy himself.

blue019Crashed out in the wet grass

blue021Soaked. The top of Blue’s snout is drenched

blue022On a sunnier day, Blue mid flight whilst ‘going nuts’

blue023Having a rest amongst the wheat crop

blue024How crop circles are made

blue025Sunny stroll down a driveway that forms part of a public right of way

blue026Blue is out of shot, but a beautiful English countryside scene nonetheless

blue027Gis a drink… I even carried with me a bottle of water and a small dish for the little fella

Written by rufdog

May 21, 2009 at 11:53 pm

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Project Hex: Building an Hexagonal Bird Table (Part 3)

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hex017
As you can see, the three tiers of tiled roof has been completed. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome, the slightly varying shades of the chopped up lollipop sticks give the roof a beautiful effect.

Below you can see the various build stages of getting this far. During the tiling stage, I gave some thought to what type of colouring, staining and protection I should apply to the roof. Part of me wanted to let the natural shades of the roof stay as they are, but after a little digging around online I decided that a deeper colour would be preferable.

I spent some time online researching ways of achieving a weathered darker colour, without losing the natural beauty of the wood. I found some interesting articles on how to naturally weather the wood.

hex014Second tier gets underway

hex015Another section of the second tier complete

hex016Second tier complete and the base of the final third tier is glued & screwed in place

hex018Roof cap section takes shape

I was simply going to fit a wooden finial to the top of the main roof, like a ball shape that are common on staircase banisters. Having failed to find an hexagonal finial for sale (that wasn’t extortionately priced), I decided to construct a ‘bell tower-like’ structure. I’m sure there is a technical name for this part of a building, dovecote maybe?

I decided against using wooden tiles on the ‘dovecote’ roof, as it would be near on impossible to get a truely waterproof cap. I entertained using copper sheet, but worried that the corrosive run-off of water would stain the wooden tiles on the main roof below. I tried creating a one-piece aluminium roof out of an inside out beer can, but the metal was so thin it simply split when folded. Eventually I settled on raiding the back of the garage and using a cut-off of self adhesive roofing felt, the sort with stone chips pressed into it.

hex019Testing fitment of ‘dovecote’

hex020Shot from above, showing the now felted ‘dovecote’

Next stage is sealing the ridge area, eves and applying a weathered effect & waterproofing.

Click here for Part 4 of ‘Project Hex’

Written by rufdog

May 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Driftwood Horses by Heather Jansch

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driftwoodhorse
Heather Jansch’s driftwood horse sculptures are stunning. As someone who loves naturally aged and weathered wood, this type of scupture appeals to me greatly. Driftwood has a beautiful feel to it. Anyone who has done a spot of beachcombing will know that it is very appealing to the eye and touch. Sun bleached and pounded smooth by the ocean, driftwood on it’s own is a work of (natures) art.

Jansch breathes more life into this extraordinary wood with her lifesized equestrian sculptures. Any artist will tell you that horses are notoriously difficult to capture in any medium, so my respect for the creativity and work that goes into these pieces has depth beyond a well painted canvas.

The artists background has some appeal too. Heather Jansch wasn’t a product of the usual high and mighty art colleges. She was asked to leave Goldsmith’s College due to her indifference to soulless modern art that was en vogue at her time of study. She went her own way and took on board teachings from the well respected artist and teacher Arthur Giadelli, whom she greatly admired. After some time making a living from painting equestrian commissions, Jansch found herself admiring some driftwood and a spark of creation crackled. She had found what she was looking for.

driftwoodfoulDriftwood Foul

driftwoodbear‘Natural’ Bear

As shown above, Jansch’s talent has successfully taken a sideways step into other natural materials and animals. I presume the bear is constructed from woodland material, which works a treat. What adds that extra touch of wonderment is that the materials used are relevant to the piece. I’m half tempted to have a go myself of creating a ‘shaggy’ version of my dog, as his resemblence to a shaggy bear cub is uncanny.

For more information, visit Heather Jansch’s Website

Written by rufdog

May 16, 2009 at 10:47 am

Bird of Paradise

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birdofparadise

Bird of Paradise – Strelitzia reginae
Shot taken outside our hotel on a recent business trip to San Diego.

The bird-of-paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae), or crane flower as it is sometimes known, is native to the southern and eastern parts of the Cape Province and northern Natal in South Africa, where it grows wild on river banks and in scrub clearings in coastal areas. It was first introduced into Britain in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks, then the unofficial director of the Royal Gardens at Kew (as they were known at that time). He named the exotic-looking plant Strelitzia in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who lived at Kew for many years.

Taken from the Kew Gardens website

Written by rufdog

May 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Project Hex: Building an Hexagonal Bird Table (Part 2)

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hex011
Having decided that the ’tiled’ route was definitely the best way forward, I forged on with tiling all six sides of the first tier. The cutting and sanding of each tile was getting laborious, so I cut and filed a dozen or so at a time, then glue them to the roof base. Mainly doing a row at a time.

Cutting the trianglar tiles for the ridge areas was the most difficult part. I had to cut against the wood grain in a specific direction, otherwise the tiny wood tiles would break up. I have to say, the gluing of the tiles was very therapeutic, and definitely the best part. The benefit of the slow drying glue is that it allowed for adjustment. The aligning of the tiles was most important, over the length of a section it was easy to be 5mm out vertically, so a constant check on levels and spacing was needed.

hex005Starting where I left off

hex006The entire first tier complete

hex007View from directly above

hex008I couldn’t get the tiles perfect along the ridges, but close enough

hex009With the first tier complete and dried, it was time for the second tier base to go on

hex010The six triangles of outdoor grade plywood go on, held in place with tape, to create the second tier.

hex012‘Birds eye view’… some shots of up inside the roof section

hex013The inside of the top of the roof… the staining is just oil that hasn’t dried.

Part 3 will follow soon…

Click here for Part 3 of ‘Project Hex’

Written by rufdog

May 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm