A product possibly useful to papermakers

I was in the local Costco today and I spotted this chopping block:

20161128cutting-board-at-costcoIt is a 2″ (2cm) thick end-grain chopping block. People who do their own fibre processing may find this useful for cutting or hand-beating plant fibres. I don’t know how well it would stand up to the abuse it would get, but it might be worth a try.

Posted in Pulp preparation, Useful gadgets and ideas

The 2016 ATF Conference, Day 1

The ATF conference started on Thursday, August 11th, with a flex day giving attendees several options:

I opted to attend the two technical sessions at the Bixler foundry.

Michael and Winifred Bixler run their foundry and private press in a beautiful old building on the northern outskirts of Skaneatales.

The Bixler type foundry

The Bixler type foundry

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Posted in American Typecasting Fellowship, Conferences and Meet-ups, Kevin, Past Events

The 2016 ATF Conference

Last August I attended the 2016 American Typecasting Fellowship (ATF) conference held in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York along with about 50 other people, primarily from North America, but a few from further abroad. Here’s a photo of most of the gang, along with some of the hosts. This photo was taken after the closing banquet so a few people had to leave early and aren’t in the photo.

The conference was spread across several locations: Our central base of operations was in Auburn NY at the north end of Owasco Lake, with some opening tours in Rochester, a day at Wells College in Aurora on Cayuga Lake, and another day at Skaneateles on the north end of Skanealetes Lake.

I drove to the conference, with the air conditioner running full blast in the blistering heat that week, and stayed at the conference hotel in Auburn. The only real problem on the trip was the border crossing into New York at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. There was a long wait, with the traffic being backed up all the way from the border inspection area across the bridge into Ontario. I still have to come up with a way of describing my trip in a manner that doesn’t send the border guard off in the wrong thought direction—somehow the word “conference” seems to set off their Spidey senses and I then have to explain them back to the mundane actuality of the situation. Perhaps next time I’ll call it an “informal conference” for which they will of course ask me to explain my hedge words: only 50 people, most of whom already know each other, no one is paid for anything, sort of like a big family reunion!

I’ll be detailing each day in a separate upcoming post.

Posted in American Typecasting Fellowship, Conferences and Meet-ups, Kevin, Past Events

Blog (and website) more fixed

Warning: Extreme Web geek talk ahead!

Well, at the time of the last post I thought I had everything on our website working again, but I was wrong. There appears to be a bug in WordPress (which has nothing to do with our server change) that, if the link name for the post happens to start with the prefix of the path of the blog URL, the article cannot be found using its permalink. The URL to our blog is http://www.papertrail.ca/blog, so in the case of recent posts about the blog being broken and then fixed, whose link names are, for example, blog-fixed (so the full URL to the post is http://www.papertrail.ca/blog/index.php/blog-fixed), the WordPress code looks for a page whose link name is -fixed rather than blog-fixed (and fails to find it).

I worked around the problem by manually changing the the link name (“slug” in WP parlance), which is generated from the post title, from blog-something to xblog-something.

This had not been a problem previously because our old permalinks looked like http://www.papertrail.ca/blog/2016/11/09/blog-fixed, which includes the post date. The page link always starts with a year number which can never be equal to the blog path.

I tried searching the WP problem database but could not get a sufficiently specific search to determine if this was a known problem.

I also changed our static web pages (outside WP land) from XHTML to HTML5 because our new server can’t insert charset= modifiers into the Content-type HTML headers of the web request replies. The old files had the encoding in the <?xml ... ?> header but this was being ignored because the browser content-type was text/html rather than application/xhtml+xml. I could have fixed it by changing all the files to .xhtml extensions but I would have had to change all the internal links as well. Instead I removed the <?xml ... ?> header, added a <meta charset=.../> and changed the <!DOCTYPE from XHTML to <!DOCTYPE html> which implies HTML5.

Speaking of changing links, WP has another oddity. When you define things like menus, you can make the menu items link to a WP post, a WP page, or a “custom” link which is just a fixed URL. When you change the permalink format on your site options, the menus that link to posts and pages automatically produce the referenced URL in the new format. On the other hand, when you link from the content of one post or page (or comment) to another post or page, the link is always a fixed URL that does not change when the site’s permalink format is altered. The only way to correct this is to modify all the post, page, and comment text to change the URL in the links. I will eventually do this using a direct query to the underlying MySql database, but in the meantime, I have the web server configuration set to redirect old permalinks to the new permalink format using a 302 status. This will also benefit people who have their own bookmarks or links to specific articles.

As for the reason for all these changes, the system that hosts our web site has recently been upgraded from an unsupported old release of OpenBSD to a more recent one to ensure we could be up to date on security fixes. We had been using Apache as the web server program, but this is no longer available for OpenBSD. For a while the maintainers flirted with Nginx as a web server, but they also dumped that and went with a basic httpd that is very sparse in terms of configuration options.

Posted in About this blog, Kevin

Life Hack: Dishwasher Water Traps

We have a collections of plastic drinking cups, some from the dollar store, and other more stylish ones from Ikea. These are great for giving drinks to children because they aren’t too big, and more importantly they are unbreakable. But they have one irritating problem: their bases have a raised ring around the complete perimeter, and this holds a small puddle of water in the dishwasher.


The result is, depending on how long you left things to dry, either a bunch of hard water scale left by the puddle, or water all over your clean and hitherto dry dishes if you grab the cup without noticing the puddle.

After putting up with this for a few years, I finally got around to doing something about it. Using a coarse burr in my Dremel, I cut four notches in the rings on the bottom of the cups, giving a path for most of this water to drain.


The remaining water is much more likely to be dried up by the time you unload the clean dishes, and the small amount of water leaves a proportionally small amount of scale.

A single-cut burr should be used rather than a rasp to give the cleanest cut and reduce fuzziness. The cuts should go completely through the ring, and although I put four notches per cup, more (perhaps 6 or 8) would be better since it would mean there would always be a notch near the lowest part of the ring. I guess if you don’t have a Dremel, you could cut the notches with a round file.


The cups are injection moulded, so I have to wonder why they aren’t made with notches already in the ring.

Posted in Personal, Us

Blog fixed (and a cute kitten)

It has been a while since I posted to this blog, so now that our server is all updated and I have WordPress working again I have a bit of catching up to do.

For now, I offer cute kitten pictures. What blog (or YouTube channel) is complete without some?

One of my co-workers (at my day job) rescued three kittens from a feral colony near our office in August. All three of them had orange striped coats and I couldn’t tell them apart. They were still on milk and I have a YouTube video of one of them being fed while making the most darling mewing noises. Since then all three have been adopted into proper homes.


Posted in About this blog, Fauna, Kevin, Other people

Blog broken

Our blog is currently broken. You can see the summary of recent posts but individual posts and pages return server errors.

We are switching to a new server, replacing Apache with OpenBSD’s httpd which is far less versatile in terms of configuration options. Hopefully we can get things working again soon, although we might have to change the url format for individual pages (thus breaking any saved links you might have to individual articles).

Posted in About this blog

KW Maker Expo 2016, Saturday September 10th

Coming up soon is the 2016 K-W Maker Expo, which will be at Kitchener City Hall on Saturday, September 10th, from 10am to 6pm.

This event, which is free to the public, will feature over 50 exhibitors and over a dozen installations and activities, located on both floors of the City Hall lobby and outdoors in Carl Zehr Square, in front of City Hall.

We will be demonstrating hand papermaking at an indoor table, against the wall to the left of the Rotunda (booth 62).

Come out Saturday to see us and all the other exciting exhibitors and displays!

Posted in K-W Maker Expo, Past Events, Sheet forming, Us

Introductory Papermaking Workshop, Saturday August 27th

We have scheduled one of our Introductory Papermaking workshops on Saturday, August 27th (a little under 4 weeks from now), running from 9am to 4pm with a one-hour lunch break.

Cost is $65 per person plus HST. For more details on the workshop, see our course description and other blog posts about it.

If you are interested in attending, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Posted in Our own courses and workshops, Past Events, Pulp preparation, Sheet forming, Us

Making Cement Board

One choice for exterior siding on a building is cement board, which is made from a mix mostly of cement, sand, and fibre. The fibre toughens the board to give it tensile strength and resist cracking. Originally, the fibre used would have been asbestos, but this is no longer used because of its health hazards. Modern cement board uses the fibres from wood pulp instead.

It turns out that the process for making this product is closely related to the process for making (non-corrugated) cardboard. The sand and cement are mixed with the pulp just as one would add fillers when making paper, but in substantially greater amounts. The pulp is spread on a screen belt for draining and several such layers are laminated to make up the required board thickness. The boards are embossed with a wood-grain pattern, cut to size, and steam-heated to cure the cement.

The process can be seen on the How It’s Made channel on YouTube.

Posted in Useful gadgets and ideas