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“The physical world is diaphanous. It’s like music. When you play music, it simply disappears. There’s nothing left. And, for that very reason, it is one of the highest and most spiritual of the arts, because it is the most transient. The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have some destination that it ought to arrive at. But, it is best understood by analogy with music, because music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say: “You play the piano.” You don’t work the piano.” ~Alan Watts 

Greek letter Phi, lower case

Lower case PHI. A single pencil stroke

Yeah, I’ll get to the post about Phi soon enough.  As a university dropout, yet still a lifelong student of philosophy, my strange way of seeing all of existence as a unified whole, disrupts some regular folks who like to dissect and speak to the parts rather than the whole. Fine, it’s all well and good.  It’s only science adherents who separate parts of the whole in order to peer under some microscope or develop a type of “core competance”. Of course, if one lives on the sidelines of culture and takes their own road, a way of existing such as the Chinese Wu wei [efortless action or non-action] is eminently appealing.

I write for the sheer delight of writing, to please myself. “To thine own self be true”,~ the Bard. I don’t speak the way I write.  Something happens when I get behind this keyboard and pen with twin forefingers peering at the pad, havin’ never learned to type.  One would surmise that a function key could erase all caps when that far left key is struck.  Politics: humanity is now so far beyond the traditional left/right dichotomy.  It matters not one iota that my scribblings [thanks to The Foth, Macleans era] are read, reflected upon, even commented upon.  I spend more time deleting spam permanently then perusing comments, all of which are moderated, as of necessity. Recall Ricky Nelson’s Garden Party lyrics 🎼You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself…🎶

I’m very well aware that in these times, much that appears on the Net is consumed rather than digested, then promptly and summarily disposed of from people’s consciousness.  It wasn’t always this way.  In 1995, when I bought my first computer, a Pentium 90 for $5Gs, we were all going to become great letter writers.  Some pill must’ve been swallowed to shelve that tirade. My blog is now in its 11th year, having taken several iterations.  This one is free, courtesy of WordPress. 🙏 Perhaps it’s the social media format of click-through and the overabundance of information; it is the Age after all.  Perhaps it’s the addiction to the pant leg, hand-held buzz, when cell phones burp in notification mode during the muddle of the night; I dunno. I’ve never owned one, so, how *would* I know?   

The other aspect is how as a culture, here in the West, little is spoken of in polite company, about what truly matters. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid, so, those of us who remain upstanders rather than bystanders, refusing to genuflect, stand out like sore thumbs. Mea Culpa. As Rhett said to Scarlett on his final leaving; “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” There’s an old saying by some lame guru, somewhere(s), that if you never have an expectation, you’ll exit without disappointment. Good thought to live by. Wear it.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, it may be why the home alone lockdown is giving pause to rethink the mad trajectory from our overly busy lives, which, are wasting our own personal, unique experience of joy. I could never cotton to the Buddhist belief that life is suffering. How droll! Life is precious, because, it IS so brief, unless you’re a bristlecone pine. 😝 Life IS life, because, it’s always disappearing, as Alan Watts has surmised.   Alas, if the late 1970s were characterized by the “me” generation, propelling my emigration to NZ, 40 years further on, that selfishness has grown exponentially, sigh. Consumer capitalism, really!

to wit: In the Greek language, PHI is the 21st letter of their alphabet and has the sound of “f”.  The letter is phonetically pronounced as ‘fee‘; not the Western anglicized version we know, that sounds like the first word in the university Phi/Delta/Kappa series of fraternities and/or sororities.

Kissed by the Flow, reflected. App. 900mm sq. or 35.5"

Kissed by the Flow, reflected. App. 900mm sq. or 35.5″

“We fail to see through the window, because we are too busy painting pictures on the glass.” ~ Alan Watts

Ø is also used symbolically for those challenged by length in speaking or writing as with acronyms. Oooogle tells us that this symbol is most often used on the NET.  Perhaps, I suppose, because, it can be formatted as a stock keystroke with a function key. On some boards, Ø, is also used to denote “not zero” or not “0”. 

“Beauty is at once the most spiritual of the 3 virtues, i.e., the good, the true and the beautiful, therefore the most material. Beauty is at the essence of the spiritual life.” ~ Alan Watts

The golden ratio does lend itself to producing well-balanced structures and has been used by artists and architects throughout the centuries. It’s also seen in the spiral growth patterns of ferns, sunflower heads, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa painting of her head and certain seashells like the nautilus. When the ratio between the whole line and the longest section is the same as the ratio between the longest and shortest section, the line is in the ‘golden ratio’. Numerically, it’s around 1.618:1, often referred to by the Greek letter φ (phi).

Backside of the main mirrored frame. A selection of some of the tools I use from 6:30 clockwise...metric steel rule, Swiss veining chisel, blk. & wht. Arkansas slipstones, 8" blk. Arkansas stone, sharpening oil, Japanese carving knife, spiral countersinks for metalworking re-purposed, carved awls for centering holes, number drill index, magnifying lens for me ole eyes, 8" wht. Arkansas stone.

backside of the main mirrored frame—A selection of some of the tools I use from 6:30 clockwise…metric steel rule, Swiss veining chisel, blk. & wht. Arkansas slipstones, 8″ surgical quality blk. Arkansas stone, [$90US in 1973!…maybe made of unobtainium now] sharpening oil, Japanese carving knife, metalworking spiral countersinks re-purposed, carved awls for centering holes, number drill index, magnifying lens for me ole eyes, 8″ wht. Arkansas stone.

Layout:

Where we woodworkers begin. Making the calculations that extrapolate the small paper size to the larger wall hanging, by determining the enlargement ratio, used for all dimensions. In the centre, you may notice the 4.4 factor.

Where we woodworkers begin. Making the calculations that extrapolate the small paper size to the larger wall hanging, by determining the enlargement ratio, used for all dimensions. In the centre, you may notice the 4.4 factor.

Roughing out:

Roughed out as the base gets glued up, to sit in the clamps overnight.

Roughed out as the base gets glued up, to sit in the clamps overnight.

Fulfilment:

  1. NS red maple
  2. NS yellow birch
  3. NS hard maple
  4. African mahogany
The best my lighting allows, showcasing the squarehead or CDN designed [1912] Robertson drive gold plated woodscrews. A tidbit; all gold plating is never 24 carat. At best, it's 23.5. Why? Because pure gold is relatively soft. For plating purposes, gold needs to be hardened. Gold is alloyed with either cobalt [yielding a faint reddish tint] or nickel, [yielding a slight bluish tint].

The best my lighting allows, showcasing the squarehead or CDN designed [1912] Robertson drive gold plated woodscrews. A tidbit; all gold plating is never 24 carat. At best, it’s 23.5. Why? Because pure gold is relatively soft. For plating purposes, gold needs to be hardened. Gold is alloyed with either cobalt [yielding a faint reddish tint] or nickel, [yielding a slight bluish tint].

“Love is bondage, willingly accepted by the free.” ~ Bulent Rauf [a Turkish-British mystic Sufi] 

A little educational history may be appropriate now, from the mid-1970’s forward a few years. Through the US magazine Fine Woodworking, I became introduced to an entirely new wave of doing and speaking about that doing.  This new wave was happening throughout Canada, the USA and Britain.  Likely, it was also expanding throughout other Western countries as well. At that time, independent woodworkers began to cloak themselves with phrases such as designer-makers. Later this ‘overly’ long phrase became abbreviated to simply: makers. I don’t know, perhaps this was a feeble attempt to separate themselves from the old school of traditional cabinet makers, furniture makers and the more boring phrase of being simply a humble-pie—woodworker. Little overt spirituality was conscious to me in that era, since we are not only, nor merely what we do. This is reminiscent of ideas and techniques spreading from continent to continent and to isolated islands with consciousness through the aether, known as the hundredth monkey effect.

Tiger eye cabochons; [8mm + 25mm] the large one is encircled by 1.5mm MOP dots in a Fibonacci sequence spiral...as are so many galaxies.

Tiger eye cabochons; [8mm + 25mm] the large one is encircled by 1.5mm MOP dots in a Fibonacci sequence spiral…as are so many galaxies.

Quora: The ratio of each successive pair of numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence converge on the golden ratio, [i.e., 1.6184] as you go higher in the sequence.

Laying out the templet for the 4 individual Fibonacci spirals and tiger eye cabs.

Laying out the templet for the 4 individual Fibonacci spirals and tiger eye cabs.

Back to the early ’70s; I realized early on, I would not become a competent woodworker, wishing to practice excellence, if I followed any singular teacher or adopted holus-bolus a methodology as practised by anyone else. It’s one of the reasons for choosing a philosophic name for my first business, i.e., Wood Synthesis. Simply stated; I was never goin’ to be good ’nuff, if I followed other folk’s path. I chose the path straight forward…through the woods so to speak, rather than taking either road at the juncture of the fork. I had to beat a path to find my own drummer with instinct, intuition, knowledge, innate intelligence and plenty of ‘sins’ [missed the mark] in the wood and though cuts on my body.

'Blindly' selected today, from a pack of 52 Follow Your Bliss, inspiration cards.

‘Blindly’ selected today, from a pack of 52 Follow Your Bliss, inspiration cards.

I recall the auction in 1980 in Moira selling all that was superfluous before emigrating to New Zealand how all us woodworkers got together on the driveway showcasing our cuts, missing digits and yuking it all up.  For the most part, we never took ourselves too seriously. The books, magazines, fellow craftsmen and teachers became my mentors.  I lived too far from Toronto to enrol in The Sheridan College of Fine Woodworking under the tutelage of then master, Donald Lloyd McKinley.

Carving end grain is tough work, as it must be completed in one fell swoop, without pounding with the fist.

Carving end grain is tough work, as it must be completed in one fell swoop, without pounding with the fist.

I purchased many books, including all of the 4 series by the Siberian born, Swedish cabinetmaker; James Krenov.  James stressed the intimate nature of the doing, a task so personal, as to defy explanation with any “why”. I watched from afar, as the Toronto school left my work in the dust, as they ventured into art forms expertly crafted by a few of the more recognizable names such as: Paul Epp, Stephen Hogbin, Andrew Poynter of A&M Wood Specialties, Michael Fortune, and lastly a personal friend, Stephen Harris. Stephen was self-taught.  He later passed away in a freak bicycle accident in the city’s High Park in his early 50’s. Unless I’m mistaken, his work is nowhere to be found on the Net. As the Brits say: More’s the pity! I have an autographed book of his work by his widow, Daphne.

“Life IS life, because it’s constantly disappearing. ~ Alan Watts

I was in my early 20’s with a young wife and son.  It was necessary to earn a living.  Since I chose to live in a rural area north of Belleville, ON, I could not provide the income doing experimental work without commissions. I chose contract work making cabinets for homes, businesses, some furniture, millwork and building. In between contracts I provided for my family with the artefacts that gave us a good material existence using the ‘tools’  at my disposal.  Learning from doing.  Self-taught. I earned a living, gleaning much, providing, giving all 3 of my children work on wknds and during summer holidays. They never had to look outside the home for spare cash and were usually paid more than minimum wage in ON for full-time work.

Using the Japanese carving knife, hollow ground on its backside; again, one push to make clean cuts. Hey, it's a meditation, which has also become part of my MO technique!

Using the Japanese carving knife, hollow ground on its backside; again, one push to make clean cuts. The idea is to provide a visual and textural contrast to a highly polished surface by sanding with 320 grit. After the carving, the reverse of the tool is used to ‘harden’ the surface through burnishing. Hey, it’s a meditation, which has also become part of my MO.

Wiki: The golden ratio is also called the golden mean, divine proportiondivine section, golden number or golden section.

I’m composing this chapter in late March, during the COVID-19 pandemic response, when all of Canada, including the province where I reside, NS, is mostly under lockdown, with no more than 5 allowed to congregate.

“Our lives are as bubbles in boiling water, which, appear, rise to the surface, pop and disappear into the aether.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Recently, a CBC Music announcer gave the following words before a playing of the master’s Symphony #2.

beethoven

All of us Ontario woodworkers felt similarly.

Initially, I wanted to develop my own style of making.  It would cherish the ideal of ∅ tool marks.  That meant no sanding scratches, file cuts, saw marks, loose fits and so on.  I still sand to 320 grit.  Why?  Because, eye see it; c’est tout. Eventually, I developed a passion for texturing, using carving chisels and my belovèd, beveled Japanese carving knife. I’ve been chip carving, texturing in different styles for over 35 years now.

The many grades of sandpaper from 80 grit—320. Yup, work it down to the bone;, then, it becomes fire starter for the woodstove. The Universe eats its garbage!

The many grades of sandpaper from 80 grit—320. Yup, work it down to the bone; then, it becomes fire starter for the woodstove. The Universe eats its garbage!

“A person lives two lives at the same time, material and spiritual, for each of which, there are laws. The law of material life is work.  The law of spiritual life is love. If you break the law of material life, that is, work, then inevitably, you will break the law of spiritual life, which is, love.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

If one does a search on the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, many links will spring forth.  Some stretch the truth, others are simply over the top.  I’ve chosen this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mozmHgg9Sk&t=440s

🙏 Thanks so much for reading my scribblings here, hear? 🤗

I AM John Gabriel Ötvös, aka jayöh.