Tinkering School

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Session A: Day 3 - The Dawn of the Industrial Revolution

2016 Session A - JuniorsGever2 Comments

Steam changed the face of the planet when it powered the massive and pervasive expansion of the rail system. But we have forgotten the early pioneers and the experiments they must have struggled through as they looked to the horizon and imagined what could be. Our progress yesterday set us up for today by showing us what our future held, little did we know just how hard we were going to have to work to get there. This is our reality; we have set our sights on a very far horizon.

Let's look at a problem with a tiny table instead. Each piece of wood matters, so what, pray tell, is the purpose of these two blocks on the bottom of your table that are getting in the way of where you want to make legs... and not holding the tabletop together? "Uhm...", says Lauren.

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With her sights on the big picture, Onion (aka Gwendolyn; she has many layers) gets to work on the local station platform.

Details matter, and we all like to look at, touch, and spin the train wheels. Is it the complimentary colors? The relationship of the materials? The exuberant eyebolts?

We often catch Milo just as it seems he's about to say something really dramatic. He came to us from the vast deserts of Mexico, and that desert with its endless sky came with him. Where is my horse, my ship, my train?

Harrison is our secret agent. He knows what's going on. And just when we think he doesn't, we find him toiling away on something he noticed needed doing.

Yesterday, PK (aka Lauren the Junior Collaborator) taught Che how to do the Dragon shadow puppet and he's been obsessed ever since.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Xavier ponders. 

Kieran decided the round plywood piece just had to be a table. So he enlisted Collaborator Kevin to help him make it happen. 

Tables have become a trend. Anya and Raquel are proud of the table they've built. Proud enough to share it with their yurtmates. 

Or to rest their weary heads on. Working on a train-line is tiring!

A view of our home for the summer, from the doorstep of a yurt. 

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The train car team decides its time for another rail alignment test. With some teamwork, they flip the car over. 

Gever and Michaela take a minute to discuss the height of the Midway Station. It's all about the hats, really. 

"I'm just here to pull them out of the wood when the drills get stuck," says Miles. Walker and Harrison tag-team the balusters on the cart sides. 

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This is why you cut a porthole in a woodshop. 

We call this the paracord trick- place a small screw, sticking out just a little, centered on each end of a joist, then run a piece of paracord across the deck and tighten it, and now you've got a line to drill along. Bonus, it comes in pretty shades of pink. 

Raquel and Anya - camp buddies. 

The Japanese Pull-Saw is a camp favorite, particularly useful for modifying the things we build after they've been constructed. Walker and Miles have decided they no longer want this board sticking up here. 

Our supply wagon - water bottles, 5 gallon bucket of sunscreen, water tank for on-site refills, and boombox. Our survival kit for the sunny, hot days out at camp. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gwendolyn at work in the field of dreams.

And after the liberal application of Pull-Saw, some sanding. 

Looks like it's time for one of those chats with Gever. 

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After lunch, a spontaneous cluster of chair builders emerges. They convene to make something that, while not quite stable, seems to be a cross between a giraffe and a throne. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Kieran at rest. 

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The dynamic duo - Gwendolyn and PK craft the Terminus Station platform. 

We enjoy the constant companionship of a thousand little green beetles, which come and go throughout the day. 

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Lauren learns the most important knot at Tinkering School - for (good) reasons, Gever is obsessed with this, the figure-of-eight. Just ask him sometime, he'll go on and on.

Hair study #1 (kids are practicing shooting from the hip the way Gever does).

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Harrison is already thinking about how high up the track is going to be as it crosses the lowest point of the path.

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We all voted, and Miles gets the "Worked with Every Kid" award for the day. Here he's helping Onion figure out how to cut a wedge to fill the gap between two track segments.

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There are some arcane markings on the tubs we use for screw management at the build site.

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Hair study #2

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Portrait of a Collaborator: it's Kevin!

Hair study #3

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Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Gilon in his natural environment, the shop.

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Two of our hardest workers take a break; PK does a French braid for Raquel.

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The track is going to be pretty high right about where we've put that giant stake. Looks like we'll have to use the water-level to figure out just how high exactly so we can get the Midway Station platform up on stilts.

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And... we'll need some more stakes since the water-level is only 20 feet long and we're laying 100 feet of track.

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Pounding an eight foot stake into the ground turns out to be complicated but kinda fun.

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So everyone wants to take a whack at it.

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Gever and Anya figure out how to read and use this water-level. It's oddly unpredictable.

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But now it is time to test the train on the new segments of rail. First, fit it to the track and align the guide-wheels.

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Test Run #1 - As the smallest of our tinkerers, per Tinkering School tradition, pushes the empty train along the rails to see what happens. The cart creaks like a wooden ship on its maiden voyage.

Test Run #2 - Raquel, our second smallest, climbs aboard for our first passenger test.

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Everyone is suitably nervous and excited.

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The third run consists of loading up with three passengers, and as the station fills up with excited onlookers, a loud snap is heard. We rush to investigate; forensic analysis reveals that we have overloaded the joist that supported the station landing. A few blocks of wood are sufficient to let testing continue, but we'll definitely be re-building part of this deck.

There's a lot of excitement to continue the testing and the next round has to be settled by Roshambo, another Tinkering School tradition whenever there is a limited resource and high demand.

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With the passenger manifest settled, the Tinker Express is off and rolling again! 

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Every trip has some new thrill as parts of the train and track undergo stress testing and fail in interesting new ways.

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It's a fairly graceful degradation of functionality as the train kind of settles down on to the track and stops moving. An investigation reveals that the guide wheels have allowed the load-bearing wheels to slowly drift off of the track.

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With so much new information and ideas about how to fix things, we have to practically push the kids out of the shop and up the hill to dinner. It's been a really productive day. Tomorrow is beach day, and as much as they are excited to go, some tinkerers are reluctant to pause the project for even a day.

Today's post co-written by Serena and Gever - yay!

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