21st Century Craftsmen: Winne Clement, Flutemaker

winne clement

The fujara is a long 3-holed fipple flute played in standing position with the flute held close to the body. It’s played using the natural harmonics system, which means the different tones are played by controlling the strength of inblown air. Using only three holes, the diatonic major scale can be reached playing two and a half octaves. Due to the natural harmonics the tuning will always be a compromise, but Belgian flutemaker and musician Winne Clement puts a great deal of effort in tuning and balancing the tones, in such a way that playing together with Western tuned instruments is possible.

All his flutes are made of harvested branches of local inland wood such as ash, elder, maple, hazle, etc. The wood is carefully chosen and cut in winter time – with respect for the environment, not damaging the donating trees – and put to dry for a long period of time. When making the flute the wood is never split in half to hollow it out, but hand-drilled with special old forged drills, leaving the main structure of the wood intact, benefiting the sound, and following the natural curves of the wood. No Tech Magazine visits Winne Clement in his studio in Ghent, where he explains us his tools and methods. [Read more…]

Mechanical 3D Printer

mechanical 3D printer“3D printing allows me to create products more swiftly and more efficiently than ever. But these products don’t feel mine. They are merely a product of this new technology. I love technology but how can I reclaim ownership of my work? Perhaps by building the machine that produces the work. Perhaps by physically powering the machine, which I built, that produces the work.”

Instead of building a traditional 3D printer, Daniël de Bruin decided to harken back to a past when pantographs and mills ruled the shop floor by making a device which doesn’t require software or electricity to work its magic. His 3D printer is driven by a 7.5 pound weight. “The weight allows me to be connected with the process because there’s no external force involved like electricity; it’s still me that’s making the print,” says de Bruin. “By physically building and powering the machine, the products that come out of it are the result of all the energy that has gone into it.”

For those who complain about the speed of FDM 3D printers, de Bruin says his machine is actually faster. It all comes down to a nozzle diameter of approximately 2mm – rather than the 0.35mm – 0.4mm which is the standard for most 3D printers. While there may be a slight loss in quality with his process, he says his old-school machine can print objects using clay material, pasta, starch bio plastics, and pretty much any material that can fit through the extrusion nozzle, which doesn’t require heat.

See & read more at Daniël de Bruin and 3Dprinterworld. Seen at the Milan Furniture Fair.

Japanese Joinery

japanese joinery“Japanese carpentry group Kobayashi Kenkou carefully demonstrates the fascinating way in which highly durable buildings are constructed with traditional methods of joining the wood with intricate cuts and interlocking plugs instead of metal nails. The fine planing and perfect fit of each interlocking piece of wood is a testament to the craftsmanship of the carpenters.”

See them in action. Via The Shelter Blog.


Stone Arch Bridges

how to build a stone arch bridge

“Stone arch bridges are amongst the strongest in the world. The technology has stood the test of time. The Romans built stone arch bridges and aqueducts with lime mortar more than twenty centuries ago. Arches and vaults were also the determining structural design element of churches and castles in the Middle Ages. There are stone arch bridges which have survived for hundreds and even thousands of years, and are still as strong today as when they were first constructed.”

“The main reason that western countries moved away from stone arch bridges is because of the high labour costs involved in their construction. In industrialised countries, it is cheaper to use pre-stressed concrete rather than employ a lot of masons and casual labourers. In the economic environment of East Africa and the majority of developing countries, stone arch bridges provide a more affordable and practical option.”

“A larger proportion of locally available resources are used in stone bridges as they can be built with local labour and stones. In contrast, raw materials and machines have to be imported for the construction of concrete bridges and specialized expertise is required. Compared to expensive aggregates, local stones are a strong, affordable material and they are often available in the vicinity (10-15 km) of the construction site. There is no need for expensive steel bars, aggregates, concrete or galvanised pipes that have to be hauled over long distances.”

Stone arch bridges, a strong and cost effective technology for rural roads. A practical manual for local governments, BTC Uganda & Practical Action.


The Making of a Foot Powered Treadle Lathe

chris builds lathe“Hi everybody my name is Chris. I choose my woodworking projects based on whatever happens to inspire me”.

In this video, Chris builds a foot powered treadle lathe. Great project, great video.

Via Old Engineering.


Victorian Nanotech

victorian watch tim hunkins“I didn’t know much about watches until my aunt died and I inherited an astonishingly beautiful pocket watch from her. Looking online, I found it was made in Switzerland around 1800. It didn’t run, and when I opened the case I thought some small worm had got trapped inside. On closer inspection it wasn’t a worm but the tiniest chain I had ever seen, a perfect microscopic bicycle chain with links smaller than half a millimetre.”

Artist and maker Tim Hunkin repairs Victorian watches. On the picture: a 1908 Waltham pocket watch, Tim Hunkin.


A Mattress that Lasts a Lifetime

“Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: The ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb. The prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants… In Greece, Italy and France mattresses are made by local craftsmen, and are stuffed with 100% wool. These mattresses basically last for life. When the wool gets compressed the mattress guys will empty it out, fluff it up, and re-stuff it, adding more wool if necessary.” [1]

Wool mattress“The bed Mary bought was made by Signor Oldani, a Milanese bed-maker and upholsterer. He made beds the Italian way, and the way we used to make mattresses in England before the introduction of short-lived internally sprung ones.

The beauty of the mattress is that when it needs a wash, the wool can be pulled out, stuffed, in batches, into pillow cases, put through the washing machine and after drying, carded back into fluffy pile before being returned to the mattress cover.

Every few years, it needs to be re-carded, as the wool slowly compacts, says Mary. In Italy during the summer, the mattress man, il cardatore, tours Italian homes, pulls out the wool from their mattresses, re-cards it, adds some more, as the process reduces the stuffing a bit, rebuttons and then sews the mattress cover back up again. Mary submitted her mattress to this process four times.” [2]

“Totally by chance, I found two places in Paris that still make their own 100% wool mattresses by hand… It was ready two days later. They told me to come back in 10 years to have the mattress redone: they pick it up in the morning, take out the wool stuffing, clean and refluff it, put a new cover on it, and then deliver it back to you before bedtime.” [3]

Read more: 1 / 2 / 3. Via Root Simple.

Brazilian Slow Shoes

Caboclo“Juliano Lima believed in the skills of his countrymen, but he knew that few Brazilian crafters had the resources to bring their work to a larger market. He wanted to create a global brand of leather shoes that were not only handmade, but made without chemicals for dyes or tanning (i.e. chrome). He traveled over 8,000 kilometers through Brazil looking for artisans who knew how to craft and dye leather the old way.”

“In the state of Ceará he found leather-workers whose hand-made process dated from the sixteenth century. Here they were still tanning leather without using chrome. To move beyond the colors of brown and black, he pushed to find a way to color his shoes with natural dyes. To create a more sustainable sole, Lima’s team began experimenting with using old tires, eventually creating a tool to craft the tires and separate the rubber from the steel wires.”

Watch the video: “Brazilian Slow Shoes“. More about Caboclo shoes.

Robin Wood, Bowlturner

Bowlturner“The bowls created by Robin Wood’s reconstructed lathe have an
unique finish, which is only found in bowls cut with a traditional pole
lathe. The sharp tools leave a distinctive mark much like the lines
found on thrown earthen ware or glass. The clean cut with the sharpened
tools means that the objects are practical for everyday use. They can
be washed with warm soapy water and will not fuzz up, unlike a bowl cut
on a machine lathe and later sanded smooth. Robin’s bowls and plates
only improve with use and ware.”

“Of course making wooden table ware for a living means making thousands
of items every year, which seems rather a tall order when you consider
the technology being used, but Rob insists that his pole lathe can turn
out wooden ware as quickly as the mechanised equivalent. This theory
has been put to the test and proven correct. As Robin explains in the
film, when he’s powered up, so is his lathe and he can get results
quickly. When he stops the lathe turning he can adjust the wood
instantaneously, whereas when you power down a mechanical lathe you have
to wait for the machine to slow down and stop turning in it’s own time.”

Any fool can make something more complex but it takes real genius to make things simple again“. A new video by Artisan Media. Robin Wood’s blog.

Via Toolemera. Previously: Make your own treadle lathe.

The Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)

SUDU 3The ‘Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit’ (SUDU) in Ethiopia demonstrates that it is possible to construct multi-story buildings using only soil and stone. By combining timbrel vaults and compressed earth blocks, there is no need for steel, reinforced concrete or even wood to support floors, ceilings and roofs. The SUDU could be a game-changer for African cities, where population grows fast and building materials are scarce.

[Read more…]