Wood Finish with edible Linseed oil

While researching on the internet for organic (non poisonous) wood finishes I came across one option which was fairly common in India. Both inside kitchens, as well as workshops, only a few decades back. Linseed is Alsi, Adsi or Tees in different parts of our country. It was used as a cooking medium wherever it was grown.

So, there began my search for cheap edible linseed oil. I could easily find small bottles of 100ml or even 500ml prized exorbitantly. These would be nicely packaged while promoting the health benefits. Even after lots of alley chasing in the old city couldn’t find one edible oil retailer. Finally on a small trip to Jaipur I got it for Rs 160 per liter.

While one can use the oil directly on wood, it takes a long time for it to dry. And all that while one has to take care preventing any dust particles to settle on the drying layer of oil. I managed to find one way, to fasten this process courtesy youtube video of linseed refining

Take some salt, some sand, water and oil in a bottle and shake it. You can keep the ratio of oil and water about equal. When you observe the chaos of the mixture you begin seeing lots of activity. Some oil particles get stuck beneath the sand, they network, get together, make a small bubble and float up. At the oil water interface, one can see cruds of whitish/yellowish stuff, which sometimes travel down, sometimes up. I have found dirty sand with dust/clay works better than very clean sand.

I leave this overnight. Overnight the mixture becomes much calmer. Still there is some activity if you shake it a bit. Yhe lighter oil on the top is thinner. As it goes down towards the water interface, strands of white slimey (maybe some bio-polymers) start to appear. They are the strongest near the water interface, making clumps. You siphon out the clear oil on the top and leave the cruddy mix behind. You can also use a cloth as a sieve and filter it out. But filtering will still make some of those sticky polymers get in.

I think it depends on individual personalities to decide when to use siphoning and when to use filtering.

I have found suphoning just the top layer gives a very good quality. This was faster drying than Camel linseed oul for oil painting prized at Rs.60 for 60ml.
Whatever the procedure you choose it is good to leave it in the sun whenever possible. Repeating this process n number of times makes it more and more refined.

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While searching for natural wood finish, I came across something which was almost a surprise. It turned out Alsi or Thees or Linseed which is eaten in many parts of the country, can also be used for wood. Some oils including this one, polymerize on contact with oxygen, creating a hard cover. Though this cover is far weaker than a chemical cover like PolyUrethane (PU), on one hand you have an edible oil on the other a poison. One drawback with raw linseed oil is that it takes a long time for the polymerization process to complete. There are ways by which this time can be shortened. The video that you see is raw linseed oil mixed with water, sand and salt, and shaken not stirred. Stirred might be fine too. So much is happenig in this bottle right now. . . . . #linseed #Alsi #thees #wood #finish #woodFinish #BLO #alternative #noChemical #allNatural #natural #colloid #oil #water #mixture

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I have found experimenting with different variation of the materials, for example different kinds of water, water from RO system, water from borewell, etc. I am interested in discovering and reviving old methods of doing things. I have found they are fare more sustainable, as well as nourishing to the body. Apart from linseed there is shellacIf you know of any other natural wood finishes


Naagin Dance – Life cycle of a pop culture

It started with this song. In fact it started ages ago, starting with the pungi or been. Used for religious purposes, somewhere down the line it got associated with the snake dance. It was adopted by the saperas who encourage the idea that it is the sound of the been which keeps the snake hypnotised. Then the snake dance made its place in the public consciousness from this song, performed by Sridevi.

There is even a heavy metal version by Deciblel. Watch the cover here:

And the dance became so popular that it became de riguer for guys to perform it in baraats, to do it. Even who had not seen the Sridevi’s naagin dance came to know about it. So I was pretty amazed to see it as a main feature in brand new bollywood song.


Pouches and Bottles

I saw Crocodile Dundee recently. It is a good movie. Based in Australia, it somewhere had this mention of a walkabout. Here is how walkabout is defined at UrbanDictionary

A spontaneous journey through the wilderness of one’s choosing in an effort to satisfy one’s itchy feet, a need to be elsewhere, the craving for the open road, that space over the horizon…yes… something like that… you can’t quite touch it so you have to go find it because it’s you just know it’s there…Or maybe it just feels good to go walking around …

In urban settings sometimes I use a cycle for this purpose. Sometimes there is a vague purpose about the whole ride. I might need some tool. Or someone mentioned a temple being built somewhere which has lots of broken high quality stones, which I could use to sharpen my tools. And so on.

I was on one such ride today. After cycling for about 3 hours in the sometimes cloudy sometimes surprisingly sunny weather, I broke a sweat and needed a bottle of water. Now I had two choices. The common man here in Bhilai goes for the water pouch. Priced at Re 1 or Re 2, the format, package and the price is right for the market here. But a friend from Bhilai recently sent a watsap message which said something bad about the local pouch water. Chemical contimation, etc etc. Ok, so I thought I will get a full bottle of water. Pouch would have been more convinient, as I would have to  stick the bottle between the cycle carrier. Ok so I went to a store and asked for a bottle of water. I don’t want cold water I said.

Now nobody who buys a bottle of water in bhilai, wants warm, kept out of the cooler, bottle. The person who buys a water bottle and not a pouch also does that to signify his social status. This is not a 0-1 thing. They might also believe in bottled water being more safer. But the social status angle is sure there. Also water pouches are usually stored in ice boxes with ice. As they are kept by small shoebox stores, pan shops etc, and even if they have an electricity connection they do not simply have the space for a cooler, or a refrigerator. Needless to say the water pouches are not that cold. This is another point where a water pouch buyer goes and buys a water bottle. He may be a water pouch drinker himself. But today is the weekend outing with his 3 year old kid and his wife. And today he can splurge on a water bottle. And if you see his budget, splurge is not a wrong word. He spends almost 3-4 times for the same commodity. The only thing he wants is his bottle cold.

Now the bigger stores have usually a cooler, given to them courtesy either Pepsi or Coke. The cola wars have made sure that every dick and harry corner store in even remote villages has either one of them. Off course if the cooler is from Coke, you won’t see any Pepsi drinks.

Now back to my thirst. I asked him for a warm water bottle. Drinking cold water after a long warm ride, I knew was a bad idea. Anyway I am off terribly cold water for some time now. Now this itself,might have been surprising for him.

“I don’t want cold bottle, Bhai”, I said again, as he approached the cooler. He got one bottle from inside the cooler and gave it to me.

“I kept it just now. It is not cold”, he said. He was right, it was in the cooler for maybe half an hour.

“20 rs”, he said.

I reached for my wallet, and my other hand rotated the bottle trying to find the MRP.

Rs. 18, it said.

Now from experience I know that if someone wants cold drink, or cold water bottle, these stores take Re 1 or Rs 2 above the MRP. This practice is throughout India, and you  might have come across this surely. At such situations I don’t like leveraging the law. So many laws and policies are such a joke anyway. And as soon as you mention any law, the whole cloud of the law system, the courts, the police etc come into picture. It might well sound intimidating, like somebody wants to report if they don’t comply. A very unpleasant situation.

“But this says Rs 18. I don’t want cold water. I know you guys take 2 Rs for the cooling. Why don’t you give me warm water?” I asked him. Maybe he could not imagine anybody not wanting cold water.

He proposed he will give me some other brand, at Rs 16.

No, I said. This is not about money. Do you have any reason why you are taking 2 Rs more from me. Above the MRP?

I have been in such situations before and they make me excited. Excited in a very negative way. My fight or flight instinct begins to take over. And I have even sometimes paid more. Or sometimes not bought and went away. Sometimes got into a word fight for 15 minutes and then got the water for MRP. The only difference today was how calm I was about the whole thing. In fact smiling the whole time. The women at the cash counter could not understand the situation at all. Everyone paid Rs 2 more. How could this guy refuse. When I saw no, these people are not budging, I moved on.

“Look i am not that thirsty. I will find water somewhere else.” When I was near my cycle, the salesman called me back. Surprisingly the salesman was the person taking the call, not the woman at the cash counter.

“Please take the bottle. And here is the Rs 2. Happy now? He asked”

I smiled again.


Internet Coma – Vodafone UX bug

Vodafone  prepaidhas many different internet packs, with different data limits and day validities. I was using a 1GB pack with a one month validity. This was not an unlimited plan, and once the 1GB data was used, the plan gets exhausted. My data used was at a 90% level with lots many days remaning validity. Since I was planning much more extensive use, I bought a new internet pack of 651 with more GBs.

This is the way this works in vodafone:

  1. When a new internet pack is bought, instataneously they stop the older plan, whatever be the data remaining, or days of validity remaining.
  2.   The user first gets an SMS confirming Recharge of the said amount. This does not have any mention of internet packs or any plan. This is the SMS text, “Rchrg of MRP Rs 651.0 on 17-Dec-14 successful. Tlktime rcvd Rs 1.07, STax Rs 71.61, AccessFee Rs 5578.32, New Bal Rs 381.13. TransID Tn 1231232123. Dial *111# for a/c info.” The main intention of a user installing an internet plan is to get more data, and day validity. This sms does not tell about these two important pieces of information.
  3.  After a few moments we get another SMS. This is what it says, “Your request for Data pack BC651 is successful. Please wait for Data pack activation SMS before using the service. Dial *121# to know your best data pack offer.”  While I might want to know the best data pack offer, but not at this moment. The moment right after I bought a data pack. This message is better suited if it comes when my data pack is about to end. Also the main thing now I need to know is when will my pack be activated.
  4. And then the third SMS hits you in the face. “Your previous internet pack has been overwritten by the new internet pack. Dial *111# to check balance.”

So I not just wasted a bit of data, and a bit of validity. Even after buying another data pack, I need to wait for it to get activated. And the time it takes to get activated is much more than a few minutes. It did get activated. After about 1.5 hours.

 A good UX would have deactivated the old plan only when the new one gets activated. An even better plan would have given be the balance data from the old plan. 


Leather Chappal

Tried my hands at sewing a chappal with my hands. The leather was again from a scrap leather dealer in Ghee Kanta,  Ahmedabad. The sole is reclaimed tyre rubber. The best thing about custom made footwear is that it fits like a glove :D.


The cheap awl I was using had a plastic handle which came off very soon. Used MSeal  for making the awl handle. Embedded it with seed from the manjadi, the bead tree, and some other baubles I had lying around. This also gives it added grip.


Skull totem

totem Skull


Fascinated by mexican skulls, carved this out of coconut shell, using hand tools.


Star of mars

Cut and polished using hand tools, off a coconut shell,  this can be worn as a pendant. The seed was picked up in Ko Chang, Thailand.

coconut shell jewellery


Sketch supply holder

leather pencil holder


I like to sketch while travelling. Most often one of my compartments of my bag has all the pencils, pens etc. But I tended to misplace it within my bag. Sewed this holder with scrap leather, with place for each individual piece of pen, pencil, blade etc.


Reggae inspired headphone


I had an old headphone lying around with a busted mike. The audio was pretty good though. I used some scrap leather I had around and sheathed the speakers with it to give it some renewed oomph. The soft suede leather feels good to my ears. The future version will have detachable covers for washing.



Touch::Don’t Touch

Seen at Rourkela railway station. How does one design with usability in mind on one hand, and protecting public property on the other?