Monday, February 7, 2022

The End

 I started this blog in 2007 to document my metal work. That was a completely different time in my life. A few years later the things I was doing in my life completely changed. I took a break from metalwork to live in Korea for a year. One year turned into five years. I tried to keep up the blog, but I had no interest in writing, and not much to say. I spent time learning CAD, but that's not very interesting to write about. I came back to the US and was working in metal again, but writing about it felt like a chore. Instagram and Facebook had become popular. I liked posting on Instagram better than writing in this blog. I moved away to Taiwan and kept posting on Instagram and Facebook. Several times I tried to start posting here again regularly just because it's my blog and I've had it for a long time, but it just feels like work and I know no one reads it anymore. 

It's time to just call it finished. I should have ended it when I moved to Korea, but at that time I thought I was just taking a break. I had no idea my life was changing completely. As I close out this blog, I am still living in Taiwan and spending most of my free time making lock picks and designing jewelry in CAD. I will be returning to the US this summer and will be doing metalwork full time. 

You can find me on Instagram and Facebook (search "ratyoke lock picks) or my websites or (eventually) This blog will stay online, but will no longer be updated. 

The end.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Second year in Taiwan

I have been in Taiwan two years now. I think my second year was much better than my first year.

My second year I decided to focus on my lock picks and jewelry work. It was a slow start a year ago, I was disorganized with my work routine, and I broke my arm on my Onewheel in October which prevented me from doing metal work for about three months. I started back up with lock pick making in February and it has been going very well since then. I have almost everything I need to make whatever picks I want, and I have made something of a work routine for myself. I work on several picks at once, with a couple at each stage of completion. I do work inside at the bench during the week, and the messy work (grinding, polishing) outside on the weekend. I also recently realized I can bring lights outside and work in the dark if I have to. It's not that bad. 

I do have a one problem. Because of covid, the mail is running slower. At first things were consistently taking 3-4 weeks. But a few months ago it started getting really unpredictable. One package took 3 months. While waiting for that, other packages that were mailed after it arrived. My little milling machine was mailed in two packages at the same time and same place, one took two weeks, the other has taken about two months so far. This is such a problem for me because I have almost run out of wood for pick handles. I received some of my wood this week, but I'm still waiting on my mill parts so I can prepare the wood. So far I have had to turn down orders for about 15 picks by people who wanted sets. I don't have enough of any one type of wood left to make a matching set. 

During winter vacation I went to Japan. Flew to Fukuoka, then went by train through Yamaguchi, Shimane, Tottori Prefectures, spent a little time in Osaka and flew back to Taiwan from there. I traveled through what some people call the most boring part of the country because I am trying to visit every prefecture in Japan. Right now I have visited a little over half of the prefectures. Not long after that public school teachers and students were prohibited from international travel due to the coronavirus. 

This summer I started picking locks again. I hadn't picked a lock in a couple years, and it had been a long time since I was doing it regularly. I am enjoying it again, but its kind of difficult to find standard pin tumbler locks here. I don't want to buy too many from the US because they are so heavy and will be expensive to ship. 

I spent summer vacation in Taiwan. I could have visited the US this summer, but I would have had to be in quarantine for two weeks when I returned. I didn't want to spend my time like that so I stayed here. I took a 12 day trip around the island on my scooter. First driving down the west side of the country, then back up the east coast. It was a tiring trip, but I'm glad I did it.

At the start of the spring semester I quit most of my Mandarin study. Beyond things like ordering food, I rarely need it and I have no Taiwanese friends to use it with. I also want to spend more time on my metal work. I still study characters, but that's all. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Mailing list for Ratyoke Lock Picks

I will be more active this year with my lock pick business, so I set up a mailing list. Click the link below to sign up.

Boxwood handle lock pick I made in 2011.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

New Website

I have been rebuilding my website for my lock picks. The whole thing is taking a lot of time because I am learning WordPress as I go. I gave myself the first week of March to get something presentable up, and the rest of the month to get it 100% finished. 

As of now, the desktop version is mostly finished. I'm still working on some details, but I think it's ready to go online. The mobile version of the site still needs work. A lot of the photos need to be reformatted to fit a phone screen properly.

So here it is, same address as before:

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

What I've been up to

I haven't been doing any metal work for more than two months. In September I bought a Onewheel, a sort of one wheel electric skateboard. A few weeks after getting it I crashed and fractured my right humerus near the shoulder. I couldn't do anything that involved my shoulder. So metal work was completely out. 
Onewheel XR+

Hand and elbow worked fine, so I could write if I used my left hand to put my arm on the table. So I decided to use this time to re-learn calligraphy, which I have always been interested in, but was never willing to commit the time to doing. I took a calligraphy class at the U of Iowa in grad school and enjoyed it, but stopped after the class ended. Right now I don't have much application for this skill, but I am enjoying practicing it. This practice sentence below has a lot of problems, but I have improved a lot in the two months of practicing.

calligraphy practice

My arm is still not 100%, but it has healed enough that I was able to polish some lock picks on Sunday. There was no pain except for when I had to reach for tools. I think I am ok to start doing more work now.

polishing lock picks at home in Taiwan

polished lock pick blades

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New photo of an old pick

While I was in the US I photographed this pick I made in 2018. It is paper micarta with orange G10 inlay. The silver pins are capped with 14k gold.

Ratyoke Custom Lock Picks

Monday, August 19, 2019

My first year in Taiwan and my trip to the US

I've been in Taiwan for a year now. It was mostly good, but kind of boring. I wasn't nearly as social or active as I was while I was living in Korea. I mostly studied, did some CAD designs, and some jewelry/lock pick work. But I don't feel like I accomplished much.

The school I work at had a jewelry class for students and teachers once a week in the evening. I made a couple pieces, and the class was good to motivate me to set up my own bench at home.

A cast ring I made in the class. Sterling and hessonite garnet.

A fabricated sterling pendant.
I was accumulating tools all year, and got a work bench in November . I had my parents send a lot of my stuff from the US, I also bought a lot here. Since I have a fairly big rooftop patio, I'm able to make lock picks here, which I wasn't expecting to be able to do. It's too messy to do in an apartment. I got all the tools and equipment to be able to complete picks around February, but I only finished 3 picks before I visited the US in July.

Two of the picks I made in Taiwan.
Ratyoke Custom Lock Picks
I spent a lot of time working on pick handle designs in ZBrush that I was planning to 3D print. I had two designs printed in a few different plastics, but I was disappointed in everything I got. I had them printed by Shapeways, but everything has too rough of a texture. It's just not something I want to put my name on. I will give it another try if I find a company that can print in plastic with better detail.

First pick handle design in ZBrush
Ratyoke Custom Lock Picks

First pick handle design in ZBrush
Ratyoke Custom Lock Picks
I studied Chinese all year, but I don't feel I made much progress. Mainly cause I don't use it much. I do feel I made a lot of progress in reading ability. Reading and writing have always been my favorite things to study, while speaking and listening have always been my least favorite.

I made two trips to Japan and Korea. Japan in September and January/February, and Korea in February and April. I don't really feel like visiting any other countries. Just Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and the US.

July 9th - August 5th I was in the US. While I was there I took a road trip from Chicago to Southern California. I saw some friends on the way, and also stopped at Rio Grande in Albuquerque, had a tour of their facilities, and looked at some equipment.

Rio Grande

Point Loma, San Diego
I also prepared a lot of wood to make picks while in the US. I use my milling machine to mill the wood flat and cut the slot for the tang of the pick, which I cannot do in Taiwan. I prepared about 55 pieces of wood while I was there, which is way more than I will be able to make in the next year. It feels good having so much wood available to use.

The wood I prepared in the US

My bench with my microscope I brought from the US this summer.
I will be staying at the same school another year. Right now I have no plans for how long I will be staying in Taiwan.