It’s cold, it’s damp, it’s dark, and I didn’t do very much.

The Christmas tree arrived, although they left it outside the house next door. Is it really so hard to read numbers?

I sawed a couple of centimetres off the bottom to improve its ability to take up water and mounted it in the base at an angle that makes it look straight. After a day or so of extravagant needle shedding, it seems happy and isn’t dropping much more. We even managed to liberate enough space in the corner of the living room that it’s out of the way this year.

I did more work on a couple of luthiery projects. First, I finished setting up the cheap flatback mandolin I picked up on eBay a few weeks ago. It was £55 including case from an animal sanctuary charity, so I didn’t feel bad about buying it. I knew that it would need some work, and that was indeed the case: both the bridge and nut were so high as to make it unplayable, while the frets were extremely uneven. Apart from that, though, it was in good condition, with no damage and a straight neck.

I had already levelled and dressed the frets, adjusted the nut, and 3D printed a bridge of an appropriate height (repeating my previous success). Over the weekend, I made a new nut that fit better, and rounded and polished it to be more comfortable. I overhauled the tuning machines by adding a drop of oil to the mechanisms, adjusting the tension, and discarding the pointless rubber washers that served only to make them less stable. I put on a fresh set of strings (and did a much better job of it than the previous owner) and it’s now about as good as it can be. It plays well, and sounds nice. I’ll make a wooden bridge at some point, but mostly for looks rather than function.

Second, I glued together the mandolin-banjo rim blocks that I cut the previous week. The mitre saw did a pretty good job of cutting them at 22½°, but not quite exactly enough to make a complete circle. I glued them together in two arches, which ended up with not-quite-parallel faces. The solution I came up with was to clamp the arches with the two faces upwards, and run a router across on parallel tracks. This worked perfectly, and I ended up with perfectly mating surfaces that I was able to glue together.

Our smart meters are now sending data to the supplier, and I can even query half-hourly usage data via their API. The in-house display unit still doesn’t pick up the gas readings, so it’s not quite all there, but at least I don’t have to take manual readings any more.

We did get that refund from Mildred’s, so maybe there is such a thing as a free drink after all.

Links of the week: