Monday, May 13, 2002


Its so humid I don’t want to be out, and if I was I wouldn’t want to be back inside. The other day I came across some timber in the office that I thought were samples. Apparently they were off-cut sizes of railway sleepers, which was basically the stuff we export to Japan for railway tracks. So I asked what was to become of the off-cut sizes, but then there was no plans for them.

Suddenly I got creative again. I just wanted to have some to work on. What did I want to make out of them? I seriously didn’t know. But I knew I just had to have some. So the weekend brought me to the sawmill in Port Klang where tucked in a corner were stacks upon stacks of the railway sleepers. Clad in my jeans and t-shirt, I was ready to get down and dirty. It was quite a liberating feeling because of the contrast it had against my daily office job.

Anyway there began the selection process. The blocks of wood were just haphazardly stacked and some were good, most weren’t. Initially I had planned to take at least 10 back, but some quick calculations later resulted in the actual figure of each of these pieces to about 25kgs. 10 pieces would be a good quarter of a ton. I was all set to get rugged but then I wasn’t prepared to be stupid.

So anyway I settled for 6. 4 were sleepers and 1 was a crossing. Crossings are basically a square while sleepers were rectangular. Crossings are heavier. I would say, more than 30kgs. Since the timber wasn’t exactly S4S’ed, which meant that they weren’t ‘sandpapered’, splinters were abound and I got quite a number of cuts. I think after a while you just calmly pick the splinters out. I still remember the time when I was in a Chinese school and the teacher used to say that if you get splinters or needles it’ll travel to your heart and when it does you’ll die. I still don’t know how valid that is.

But anyway at the end of the day I managed to get all the timber up, with some help of course, into my balcony where it has now unofficially become my own little woodworking garage. I still have some more in my car which I think I will carry up tomorrow.

So during the duration of the entire process I decided that I would make lamps out of these things. Don’t expect me to get into details of how it would be, it’s going to be a long and laborious process because of the weight and everything, but I started on the first stage today and it was a complete workout that rivaled most exercise videos.

I was feeling lethargic at work today, the constant feeling of the lack of sleep didn’t help, or perhaps was the main cause of this. Anyway, I was looking forward to getting home. I had my tools ready, saw, L shaped ruler and a huge file. First step was to cut some skids to create support for the sleepers. Skids are basically of the same species, kempas hardwood, very tough, very durable, a pain in the ass to work with, as I would soon discover. Skids however, are a lot smaller in size, about say 50mm x 50mm would be good judgment.
So I started sawing the wood. It took…quite a long while before I actually got halfway through, and the saw kept getting stuck in the wood. Already weakened by the lack of dinner, I wanted to just give up then because it did seem quite helpless. However something in my head kept telling me that something this small shouldn’t have been posing as a problem. But I had been forewarned of this, that’s the reason why they use huge cross-cutting machines to cut these things, not handsaws.

However, I was determined to finish it. And I told myself that I wouldn’t get out of the balcony until I did. Well, it just took time and a lot more effort, but in the end I managed to finish it. It was satisfying to say the least, but looking at the amount of timber left on my balcony, I would say that there is a long way to go. This was only the beginning. And judging by the amount of power tools I would have to work with to get this lamp done, I think I might just enjoy the journey.