Monthly Archives: January 2013

Thaw by Thor Truck

Thor comes again

Thor comes again

This has taken me a few days to get to and the recent snowstorm feels like a distant memory as Spring now begins to lift her pretty head. But somehow out of Jack Frost’s latest dream emerged a new vehicle…Thor. The story goes like this..

It is maybe our connection to Jack Frost or Angel’s not wanting to leave, but somehow this little Welsh valley got the most snow in the country. Snow snow snow. The first night the front door blew open and there was a pile of snow on the doorstep, and it was all quite pretty and white.

The next day we awoke and it was DEEP, and as there snow time like the present, The Heart suggested we go forth with the Land Rover to have breakfast in town. We got to the top of the hill out but got stuck in thigh-high drifts which had blown from the fields either side of the track, so had to dig our way back. It was very exciting being snowed in, like a siege until we got down to the last carrot and then Ivian, the farmer, managed to get his 4×4  tractor in to tow the Land Rover out. We thus avoided the challenges of scurvy.

Jedi icicle from the side of the house

Jedi icicle from the side of the house

Snow time like the present

Snow problem

We then went on a wintry mission across the country to meet the new truck, a Mercedes 814D 4×4. There seems to be a bit of a snow theme and a yellow theme with our vehicles, as the 1820 was a road gritter in a previous life, and was yellow but is now in the process of being resprayed, although it is taking a long time whilst waiting for a dry day in Wales.

1820 in mid-respray

1820 in mid-respray

And when I first went to get the (yellow) Land Rover there was a spectacular hail storm, then the sun came out when she drove towards me.

Hail! Defender

Hail! Defender

So we knew that we were onto a winner when we got to the guy’s house through the snow, and he turns out to be a polar bear fanatic with pictures of polar bears, stuffed polar bears and polar bear cushions etc (and the truck is yellow).

Polar bear collection

Polar bear collection

814 4xThor

814 4xThor

We then re-drove across the country and made it to Hereford, where the cap of the Land Rover’s fuel filter fell off stranding us at a Cash and Carry car park with an unhappy boss, on a closing Saturday afternoon. No new fuel filters were to be had, then The Heart came up with the idea of putting a bolt in the old filter. Great…but I had only bought 10 litres of diesel, not enough to go through the system, so back to town for more diesel, then back to the car park…where the Land Rover battery is flat, so we jump started….and we made it out with 15 minutes to go on the closing gate….

So…we got back to the farm with the dark already descended, but a full moon behind the clouds. The farmer drove us up the steep hill in his Isuzu, and despite there being little snow left elsewhere, somehow our track was still knee deep in wet snow. He has good tyres, and a sense of adventure, and after getting stuck a few times, drove some tracks through the mush,….then the Land Rover and the new Mercedes made it up the hill in one go.

The minute we got home, there was a big flash of lightning, a roar of thunder (the first since we got to this little valley), and a torrential storm started which washed all the snow away….and brought the thaw with the promise of spring.

Thor is the God of thunder and lightning (and 4×4 trucks).

Thor

Thor

Jiggity jig

It’s been quite a day, waking up with our little Welsh valley deep deep under snow, then getting the Land Rover stuck and returning without reaching the outside world. We do have enough rice and lentils to last until spring, so won’t starve.

Back to the story…..

Using this picture from Google Sketchup, we saw that the diameter of the ‘silo’ was half the zome radius. (Here the zome is  the whole shape made from the extended Flower of Life and the actual structure is obviously half of this shape.)

Zome rib curve

Zome rib curve

One bright morning in the oh-so-wet-when-we-were-there Harz Mountains, Germany, the Scholar and the Heart woke up and decided that they have been looking at 3d modelling programs for too long, and it is indeed time to do something about the jig. Of course, being nincompoops, they did not come up with a plan of action, but just decided to go to the recycling yard instead.

So they jumped into the 1820 4×4 truck and, after a few morning chores, were in Germany’s finest recycling yard. Yellow vests sourced, they stand in the middle of the yard still plan-less, realising that the truth of the matter is that there are not two bits of metal here which are the same, so actually making a generic former, requiring many identical sections of metal, is a long way from being achieved.

The boys wandered around admiring the junk, the big mixers dreaming up legendary machinery until noon, when all the big machines, trucks and burning male energy was getting some what burning, when a tractor and trailer came and offloaded their content on the ground. Mr Heart decided that whatever the contents of it are, they must be able to construct a jig, or else those mountains of steel will never yield a crop, because as mountainous as they are there was simply no way to get anything out of them.

The contents of that trailer load did prove to be promising with T-profile lengths of mild steel: the perfect (better even than square section) clamps. With another little forage in one of the scarier less piles of steel, they found a box section 50mm x 50mm already curved to shape!!!  It was over bent, but, with some crane persuasion, was made to the perfect diameter.

They also dug up the contents of an interesting barrel, that proved to contain a horde of heads of various axes and adzes, one of which seems to be  medieval (ended up as a present for our German host, Boris, as a gift of appreciation).

Zome strut jig with clamps open

Zome strut jig with clamps open

Zome strut jig

Zome strut jig

It is quite a sticky job lining up the 3 layers of wood, getting the nuts on and tightened as the fast drying glue dries, but latex gloves do help.

Tightening the bolts on the jig clamps

Tightening the bolts on the jig clamps

Zome jig with a strut in place

Zome jig with a strut in place

The Structure and Men

So a bit more of the Zodiac tent story….the question was how in the world to make this thing, starting with the zome. We started by making a small model, to understand how the zome structure works, when Bill Coperthwaite was visiting us in Austria.

Bill is a story of his own, being the first person to make a yurt in the West, the father of the western yurt perhaps. He made his first trellis yurt in the 60’s in the USA then went on to develop the wooden tapered wall yurt and is now 86 years old  living on his own in the wilds of Maine. (He thus has no ‘phone or email, but reminds us of a time when pen and paper was a trusted form of communication, and somehow his letters always come at auspicious times, and find their way to us, even in the most nomadic of situations. Funnily enough, in the few days I have been writing this entry, someone asked me about him, and the next day we received his annual calendar).Bill's yurt in Maine

Bill’s yurt home in Maine

We made the frequency-6 model on a sunny day and saw the shadows on the structure moving towards the Flower of Life, which started a debate about where on earth, at what time of the day and year, the sun would be overhead, thus projecting the exact form. Variously in the tropics, I think.

Model zome. If you look carefully you will see Bill on the Land Rover back, carving yet another spoon

Model zome. Bill, in the background, on the Land Rover back, carving another juniper spoon

First…how wide? We thought 16′ was a good size for the peripheral yurts, making the diameter of the central structure, centre of yurt to centre of the opposite yurt, 18.6m.

And how high? With help from Rob Bell’s Sketchup programme, and Nicolas’ zome programme (en Francais), several sessions of geometrical debate, and some unorthodox calculation methods (see picture), we came up with a height of 6 metres, giving a rib length of 15.6 metres.

Finn up on the crane for the height measurement, Chloe in the forest for the width

Finn up on the crane for the height measurement, Chloe in forest for the width

Our calculated zome

Our calculated zome

OK…so the struts are helical, and we were to make them from sawn wooden planks,in 3 laminated layers, glued together with extremely sticky, fast-drying PU glue. This meant, that to enable the canvas cover to sit evenly on the frame, the planks would need to be twisted, in two directions, like diagonally on the side of a large cylinder, like a silo. (How we found the silo is another story.) It took us a while to see that the left twist and the right twist are different, ie the helixes are sided. (Try wrapping a 1cm wide strip of paper, or better thin aluminium, around a coffee jar).

Mythological intertwining. Hermes staff: the Caduceus.

Mythological intertwining. Hermes staff: the Caduceus.

Then one day the boys visit the saw mill. The Scholar, who is fluent in German speaks with the sawmill guy called Thomas, the son of Thomas and actually…. the father of a Thomas, and as it is Austrian lunchtime and the mill is closed, the boys take Bill to have his coffee ice-cream. A cafe’ is found, and whilst the sugar settles in, and Bill convinces the Scholar to have some ice-cream too, the Scholar being a scholar reads the sugar packets.

It turns out that the cafe is also a museum ?!! and that the owner’s grandfather spent some years collecting old farm tools and crafts, and the whole top floor of the building and bakery is dedicated to old farm life, from beds to cupboards to violin cases, to wine presses and more and more and more.

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Austrian oak beam with Flower of Life carving

Bill is an old craft and tool addict, and browsing through the top floors, the boys were amazed to meet an old farm oaken beam with the Flower of Life carved into it,  an affirmation that Yes there is a thread running through the weaves and patterns. Of course we knew this pattern is portrayed all through the world: at the gates of the forbidden city in China, at countless temples and holy places and now we found out also at the ice-cream parlour on the doorstep of the Austrian sawmill.

Seed of life on oak beam

Seed of life on oak beam

So on we went to meet Thomas I, II and, well not III, and they sawed the 15 ash logs into planks, and we loaded all 3 tonnes of these into our truck, then later into the trailer, then later out of the trailer, then later….etc etc

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Ash logs

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Into the truck