Thursday, July 29, 2010


I made this turban with Lucie. It was a pattern written in French, from a soap company premium booklet. The pattern was posted by Cristina dePrada on the wonderful blog The Rantings of a Mad Hatter Wannabe. Check out the fantastic things she writes, and see her beautiful hats here:

It was really fun, Lu translated the finer details and I made it up in fairly short order. Now I want to try a few variations! :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New cool camera

I got a really nice D-SLR for Xmas this year. My new camera is a Nikon D90, and it is a work of art in itself! This camera has so many features I'm not sure if I'll ever know how to use them all! I have not yet taken a ton of photos, because I still mess up the settings (I'm so lame) and end up with slow shutter speeds that over expose, or some other dumb thing. Time to take a class, me thinks!


The type of photography I like to do is composite panoramic, which relies heavily on post processing. I take 25 to 30 photos of a wide area of a subject (mostly I like the sunset at my beach) and then take the individual images into PhotoShop. There I knit together
the separate images to create one rather huge image. Above is my first composite taken with my cool new camera. I took about 20 shots, about 8 or 9 were used. The final image dimensions, with a white border, ended up being about 12"h x 48"w. I hope I can find a place to print it- that won't break the bank! I have a few other panoramics on my Flickr photostream, go check them out if you have a minute.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My review of Porcupine Tree @ Club Nokia

5 / 5
5 / 5
Porcupine Tree rocks Club Nokia

by Progmom
Location: Oxnard California.
I would have gone to pretty much any venue to see these guys! Porcupine Tree has been on heavy rotation in my house for several years now.
The dynamic range that PT employs for their catalog of work is extremely broad. Songs can go from a breathy sigh to a face melting assault in an instant. Steven Wilson has a beautiful voice, the atmospheric keyboards provided by Richard Barbieri gently sweep currents through the soaring guitars and Colin Edwin's rolling bass lines. Gavin Harrison's drumming is tight and meaningful. John Wesley was filling in as second guitarist, as he has for PT for several years now, and seems to be very comfortable in that role.

The Band played, in its entirety, the first disc of the Incident, their new release. It was my first time hearing it, as it is just released. The work is epic. I am planning to run out today and snatch one up so that I can play it to death! It is 55 minutes of work, developed as a concept album. For Prog fans, that is code for "AWESOME!" It should fit into the history of concept rock very nicely indeed. After such a performance you would expect "thank you, goodnight" from many bands, but PT played for at least another hour after a 10 minute intermission.
Here I must interject- people, when they say 10 minutes it is TEN FREAKING MINUTES- get your butt back in the seat by 0:09:55 so we can ALL enjoy the second half without interruption! Thank you very much!

Club Nokia provided an excellent, somewhat intimate opportunity to see this remarkable band. The house is raked at nearly 45 degrees. Nobody should have had difficulty seeing the stage. Two smallish monitors provided extra viewing. The Sound system was very well designed. The music was not overly loud, and it was well mixed. The visuals, designed by Lasse Hoile were projected behind the band, as well as on the house monitors- additionally laser and special effect lighting added nicely to the experience.

The venue provides a very civilized place to enjoy a fine performance. The attendees were, for the most part, a civilized bunch- but I really did expect that. Seats were rather narrow, which meant that except for standing ovations, everyone remained seated during the show. PT guards their performances closely, no photos or recording devices. They requested that the audience police themselves, and I did not once see the LED of a cell phone held in the air for a quick snap. Very well mannered crowd.

On the down side, I was in the back row of the upper balcony, and loud talking, drifting in from the bar area was somewhat distracting. Parking around the LA Live complex (Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, Convention Center & Club Nokia + shops & Restaurants, was poorly signed. We had hoped to park in one of the on-site garages, but couldn't find an open entrance! It was also confusing to navigate due to the media and staging setting up for the EMMYs the next day.
Overall, I hope that the rest of the tour can be played in venues as nice as Club Nokia, Porcupine Tree's music and fans deserve no less!

Favorite moment: The section of The Incident entitled 'Time Flies' was absolutely breathtaking!

Setlist: First set: The first disk of the Incident, see for details Second Set: The Start of Something Beautiful, The Sound of Muzak, Buying New Soul, Anesthetize, Lazarus, Strip the Soul, .3, Bonnie the Cat. Encore: Way Out of Here, Trains.
Opening act(s): Bigelf. A bit of a clunky old-school prog sound. Acceptable as opening bands go.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Back to School

Well, summer is over and classes are soon to start. This fall I am taking over teaching duties from my silversmith guru, Lois Allmen.

Lois is now into her 90s and has decided to retire from the instructional world. She is a life-long educational devotee. Along with raising a large brood of lovely children, she taught for a LOT of years in the Oxnard School District. I think she has earned a break, don't you? I hope she will be able to come to class from time to time, as her schedule allow. She is a storehouse of information, and a delight to spend time with.

As for class, I have decided to implement a stricter enrollment of new students, to allow more personal attention to newbies. There is nothing more stressful than having five or six people asking you five or six different questions at the same time- while keeping one eye on the torch table to make sure nothing/nobody is going up in flames! I hope this will provide a more thorough educational experience for each and every student.

I have also decided that although the OGMS lab will be open to returning students, they are on their own when it comes to trying new techniques. Since we offer "Beginning" classes, I will not be offering casting, prong settings, keum boo or other advanced techniques to lab students. Perhaps with a little luck and some time to grow accustomed to my new role, I will add a class for other techniques. Perhaps workshops held over a weekend. For now, however, cabochons and simple fabrication techniques will have to do. In the mean time, students can try their hand at teaching themselves. I will offer what advice I can and encouragement of course, but the baby birds must learn to fly, and so they shall!

For students interested in adding techniques I will be recommending Joanna Gollberg's excellent books on metalsmithing: Joanna's Amazon Page

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Lindstrom Pliers

I published this review on Amazon. I am also posting it here for my students.

4.0 out of 5 stars
Caveat Emptor!, August 17, 2009
By J. Psmith (Oxnard, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Although the stock photos for this coveted brand of pliers shows a Box joint- recognized as a mark of quality- Lindstrom RX series pliers are now being manufactured with a Lap joint. This fact is mentioned in the seller's description, but many other sellers omit this fact.

I was stunned when I received a set from Fire Mountain and thought I had been sold counterfeit goods. I contacted Lindstrom and they checked out my tools personally. (In the US Lindstrom is represented by Snap-On Tools.) The Marketing Manager, Mike Billings, assured me that the goods were genuine. He was very nice about explaining the changes and I really feel Lindstrom still stands behind their tools.

It seems that Lindstrom Tools has moved its manufacturing to Spain and France, and this has coincided with a design change. They claim that the new design is as stable as the original Box type joint, but that the Lap joint will allow for replacement of damaged tips. While I don't doubt the replacement claim, I do question joint stability.
Since I only recently purchased the RX set, I will have to work with them for a while to determine the quality aspects of the "improved" design. I was saddened to see a fine quality company move its manufacturing toward the cheaper end of the manufacturing spectrum, I guess this is the way of the business world :[ At least it didn't go straight to China!
If you are buying Lindstrom Pliers, be prepared for the design change. You will still find the RX have the wonderful grips that characterize the line. They are very nice to my hands, I think anyone that works with pliers a lot will appreciate the comfort. Only time will tell if the durability of the tool is still built into these legendary pliers.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Prog Blog

Back in 1979 I was 19. I worked in a record store part time.
It was a pretty fun job, even though it didn't pay very much. I got to listen to music, talk about music and think about music for most of the day. Music was pretty much my favorite subject... it still is one of the things I love most in life.

If you grew up in the 70s you may recall the dearth of decent music available. Back in those days the best music available to anyone wanting well crafted, artistic
, thought provoking music was on FM stations. It was the days before FM was considered commercially viable, and so most stations were sisters of commercial AM operations.

Many of these FM outfits had unlimited creative license. The DJs were often college students or guys that maybe got demoted from AM. The playlists were wide open, heavy rotation was NOT an issue. Usually the DJs got into a groove and could go for 20 minutes or more without interruption. They played long tracks and one would segue into another for an amazing flow. Innovative artists like (early) Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Brothers Johnson, Kansas, ELO, King Crimson, Neil Young, Yes and many others found airplay for tracks that never made it to AM.

I listened for hours to FM programs full of obscure and wonderful Album Oriented Rock (AOR)- blissfully passing through the late 70s without having to pay much attention at all to disco and pop music. Although The freeform days of FM wouldn't last forever (its ghost still walks among us as Classic Rock radio), it lasted long enough for me, and many others, to benefit from it.

Some of the beneficiaries were the punk & new wave movements. The FM DJs would receive promos from record companies promoting this new sound- stuff everyone knew would get little or no AM airplay. Patti Smith, The Cars, Brian Eno, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers etc. started sneaking into playlists- influencing the pliant minds of young listeners. I got my first punk album from Dick Warner a DJ at KRCB, The Ramones, Leave Home- I loved that album! I played it for everyone I knew- most people just laughed at me.

I heard Patti Smith's version of Gloria... It was dirty, sexy, crazy- Tom Petty's Break Down was sinuous, provocative- I was hooked. I would talk to anyone that had heard these new artists. I sought out more of my kind. Soon there was- even in Omaha, Nebraska- a crowd that embraced the new music. Of course the record shops were the place to find this new elixer, and so all that craved it ended up there. Homer's Records and Tapes (yes kiddies, records and tapes) was Omaha's nerve center for the new, obscure, challenging and progressive musical output of the day. Anyone that was anyone made it to Homer's as often as possible to see and hear the new releases.

Homer's is where I worked- for a little while. I met so many great people, listened to so much great music it was like a Roman orgy for the soul! One of the cool perks of working in a record store was that you got to (once in a while) pick stuff out of the promo stash. Of course, senior employees got first grabs leaving the obscure dregs for part-timers like me, but sometimes that's actually a good thing! I ended up with the most obscure collection of great stuff. I had Willy Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, Jules and the Polar bears, John Hiatt, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, UK Subs, Suicide Commandos- soooo much cool stuff!

One of the promos I picked up, and which would really shape my musical tastes, was the first Japan album, Adolescent Sex. I was obsessed by the complexity and uniqueness of their sound. David Sylvian had a panther-like growl that dug its way into my brain. The sparse guitars, layered with rich, complex keyboards and rhythms were a dusky, sinister incense that intoxicated me. Although I heard years later that the band was somewhat embarrassed by this and their second release, Obscure Alternatives, I continue to this day to thank them for these amazing works.

For decades now I have followed my own musical tastes wherever they may roam. In the 80s & 90s I lived in Seattle. KCMU was the UofW campus radio station. They played GREAT open format programs of new music. I was sad when that station faded away, but enjoyed it while it lasted. Some of the DJs allowed the open format to become quite formless- that did not hold my attention very well. There are still a number of these formless format shows on college radio, but they are still better than the top-40-heavy-rotation-crapola alternative!

Some of the KCMU DJs ended up at KNDD (107.7 the End) and continued to play great music for quite a while. I hope they are still around in some form! Nobody did ever play my perfect mix, but hey, I'm flexible! In the early 90s KNDD played Tool, which became one of my favorites. I thank those DJs for that! Tool was another band with a unique sound- they still are. Although they were adopted by Metal fans, they really are genre-less. They fit somewhat into the Progressive Rock category along with Dream Theater and my latest obsession, Porcupine Tree.

I discovered PT when I was watching the Opeth Lamentations DVD. Opeth are a Swedish Death Metal band that follows its own muse. My son got me into those guys. Lamentations included a documentary of the making of the co-released albums Damnation and Deliverance. It featured footage of Opeth frontman, Mikael Ã…kerfeldt, in the studio with his co-producer, Steven Wilson. Wilson was so amazing, picking up a guitar to play fills, stepping into the booth to record backing vocals and generally being a natural genius at the mixing board. After watching that footage, I had to know what his personal projects were like!

Thanks to Google and Wikipedia I am now a fan of Porcupine Tree. PT, incidentally, incorporates the talents of Richard Barbieri, who played keyboards for Japan so many years ago. So I guess that no matter where my path may wander, it always takes me home!

This blog entry has become something akin to the Prog Rock I love so much. It has wound its way around, exploring whatever it passed, shared a thought and like smoke, shifted again with the next breath... and like that genre it will probably be disregarded by 90% of all that come in for a glance. I'm ok with that, it wasn't meant for everyone.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Saw Piercing

Anyone who knows me can tell you what I love best- Silversmithing! For some unexplainable reason I have not- until this point, felt the need to create a post about it. Probably because I'm usually at my bench working on some project!

Lately I have been enjoying my Jewelers coping saw- a tool that receives a lot of bad-mouthing from many silversmith students. Yes, I do understand that it is hard to saw without breaking saw blade when you start out. However, if you keep trying, you will improve with time. Soon you will be wearing out blades rather than breaking them.

Think about learning to ride a bike. Most people didn't hop on and tootle off down the street on the first try. Most of us ended up in a heap on the ground quite a few times. Scraped knees, elbows
and tears were part of the learning experience.
I remember my son at 3 1/2 years old... like anyone else he crashed and would end up shrieking that he hated his bike. Five minutes later he was back on again. By the end of the afternoon he was riding without crashing (much).
So if a pee-wee kid of 3 1/2 can ride a bike without training wheels then it stands to reason that an able bodied adult can learn to saw a thin piece of metal that pretty much stands still.

Here is a bit of collected wisdom from myself and the web:

When loading the jewelers saw frame with a blade, proper tension is a must!
With saw teeth pointing downward (toward the handle end), tighten one end of the blade in th upper knuckle of the saw. Place the frame open side up, against the table and push the handle of the saw toward the table edge- tighten the lower knuckle, securing the
blade. Test the tension as follows:
When you pluck the blade the sound should be a high & tight "ting".
If you hear a low, shaggy or flat tone you do not have proper tension. Loosen the frame-back nut, hold the frame-back end on the table top and press the cross-bar downward, re-tighten and test again. If your frame only has front edge adjustments ("C" frame), loosen a front knuckle and press harder to tension the blade, re-tighten etc.

Important Basic Sawing Practices:
These points are important for accuracy in cutting:
Keep the blade perpendicular to the sheet that you are sawing.
Sit with your head above the work piece & your elbows at chest height slightly below the pin.
Find a comfortable position that allows you to see where the blade is going- not where it has been.

Saw slightly outside of your design and file finish.

These things keep your blade from binding:
With your free hand, hold the sheet flat to the wooden pin, and don't let it wiggle around.
Keep all sawing activity close to the
edge of the wooden pin where the metal will be supported.
Lubricate your blade often- candle stubs are cheap and work well.

These things keep you from breaking blades:
Proper tension (see above).
At corners and tight curves- Turn the work piece s-l-o-w-l-y, while "sawing" the blade in place. Proceed slowly through all curves.
Never push the blade forward against the uncut metal. Let a gentle pressure on the saw advance the blade as it saws. The blade only cuts on downward strokes.

These things will make your work easier:

Choose a saw blade appropriate to the sheet gauge that you are cutting.
A saw blade that is too big will catch and chatter along the edge- You will go mad!
A blade that is too small will clog up from metal chips and stop cutting until the chips are cleaned out. This will slow the cutting job down unnecessarily- You will get bored!
When starting your first cut, use a file to make a notch on the sheet edge. This will keep the blade from wandering.
Use the full length of the blade on each pass. Avoid short strokes which will only engage the center teeth of the blade. This will help to advance your progress with less muscle fatigue & will distribute the wear to the blade which will prolong its use.

Buy good quality blades. Students often buy the cheapest tool because they don't think that expense is justified. With saw blades cheap is not the way to go! Quality German or Swiss blades will cut cleaner and last longer. Many have rounded backs for easier turning. I bought some cheap saw blades early-on, they would wander terribly and mess up my projects. They also broke like crazy!
I had a lot more filing to do with those cheap blades, and wasted silver too.

Thanks to PB Cohen's site
for this link to

James Miller FIPG has posts regarding saw piercing on Here is a link to one of his many informative posts:
James Miller on saw piercing

If you want to customize the saw handle for a more comfortable grip, Brian Meek has the plan:

Well that is about all I have to say on the subject. I will leave you with a photo (at the opening of this entry) of a piece I made in red brass and copper.
It was practice for a silver piece I want to make next.
Sorry for the blurry photo. My phone doesn't have a focus feature.
Happy sawing!

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