Friday, March 26, 2010

A cruck building technique

A ridge-beam can be supported by two tripods to make a pioneered "tripod-cruck" building.  with the ends of tie-beams extended outward, the side walls can be framed just as in a conventional cruck building.  This would work well.  But while contemplating this idea I came across a picture I saved about six months ago that provided me with inspiration for how to raise a cruck building on uneven ground single handedly. 

Build two tripods and support a tie-beam across them.  Adjust the beam for level by pulling in or extending outward the tripod legs to raise or lower the tie-beam's ends.  Then attach the cruck blades to the tie-beam (as in above picture) and place concrete piers under them.  Repeat this procedure for the other gable end of the building.  Place a ridge-beam across the two pairs of crucks.  Place the wall plates across the ends of the tie-beams.  Brace the structure, then remove the four tripods and it should remain standing firm and solid.  Sheath the building as desired.  When finished it should be a single-bay cruck building with a clear and unobstructed interior.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Whipping top

A whipping top is a toy, pure and simple. In all probability China has the most unique whipping tops, where this game has been elevated to a fitness sport. The whips become large; bullwhips, double whips, whips with chains, whips on sticks, and sticks with whips are all used. The tops may be so large that they need to be started while held steady with a dowel inserted into the upper portion of the top. Swing the big whips in a wide circle overhead and let them hit the side of the top, then again and again (video playlist). Here is a collage of images of some of the tops and whips:

Now if The Great Alaska Bowl Company or a local woodworker could turn me a four to eight inch diameter top on their giant wood lathe, I could put a metal tip on it, make a simple home made whip, and I would be in business like these guys. A cheap and easy approach.  (But all the fun of the big tops is also contained in the smaller, more portable ones that don't require a 15 foot radius to play with!) 

Here's the relevant terminology:
打陀螺    = da tuoluo, spintop or whipping top
抽陀螺    = draw top in Chinese
鞭陀螺    = bian tuoluo, lit. "whip top" in Chinese

Friday, March 5, 2010


The first time I looked at this particular plan of Johan van Lengen for a bamboo house, I thought it was boring, the second time I saw that it was very strong, and the third made me realize that it was based on a simple polyhedra - a hexagonal prism, and the gable truss was simply a portion of a hexagon and hexagram combined.  I then realized that all longhouses are essentially geometrical prisms.  So here is one way of generating them.  While the pentagonal prism is the simplest, the vertical posts on the hexagonal prism engenders a more intuitive design, and the steeper slope of the roof on Lengen's drawing is more aesthetically pleasing while allowing for the physical construction of the building using poles.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

sustainable community

Last night after watching Food Inc. a few disparate ideas began to coalesce in my head.  I wondered what it would be like if we got all our food locally.  I wondered if peak oil would be followed by "peak food".  I wondered how all the different businesses and people in my community worked together to provide the services and materials that were needed to sustain us.  Our community is like an organism, or maybe a cell.  What work do the people do?  What do they need to know?  How does it all function?  The most appropriate buzz word for these ideas is "sustainable community".  Sustainability really occurs at the community level, or at least I think that this is the smallest body capable of long term survival.  An individual cannot sustain itself, it eventually dies.  A nuclear family cannot sustain itself, but a community is a working, breeding population.  It can supply a wide variety of services and work together to meet the needs of everyone from the strong to the weak.  Traditionally a "community" has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location, in social units larger than a household. These interacting people are individuals in every sense of the word, who interact by necessity and due to proximity.  A community is composed of diverse individuals. 

There must be a balance between the needs of a community and the indivuduals of which it is composed.  I am only thinking of community in terms of the smallest unit of long term sustainability and self-sufficiency, or in other words within the context of the global environment and anthropology.  I'll avoid insinuating any political ideas as they would seem rather irrelevant to solving these very basic problems.  Or at least I do not see how they can.  Even today, when governments do not work to meet the needs of the people, it is the leaders of cities and towns, the mayors and council members, who (sometimes) set the example of higher standards.  Cities have programs devoted to improving the well-being of its members, such as job centers, and the overall functioning of the city itself.  I know of people who are active in a field of study called "comparative civilizations".  While a civilization is on the larger scale of nations and cultures, usually a grouping of many communities (the only larger grouping is humanity as a whole), the basic lessons learned are similar.  I want to know more about my community so I can help to make it sustainable, and to the extent possible, self-sufficient.  I hadn't before thought of my life as depending upon the health of my community more than anything else, but perhaps this is true.  Even more so in times of change.

Postscript: I would love to eat food that is: not "processed", in season, organic and not GM, and local.  Satisfying just a few of those criteria is difficult.