carpentry

Springtime Ritual #2 – Garden Carpentry

Another of the regular winter/spring/summer rituals here in Shangri-la is to re-think the carpentry needs for the gardens, and this year two new hoops over the raised beds percolated to the top of the pile.  There had been hoops before but those were made in haste and only lasted ten years.  The time had come for something a bit more robust.  They get used year round, in the winter to serve as mini-greenhouses, in the summer to keep out the cabbage butterflies.

I decided to make the ribs with three lamina instead of two, so I ripped the requisite number of 1/4″ strips from pressure-treated 2x lumber.  The actual forming/laminating process began with constructing a form that can serve to fabricate laminated hoop ribs from now until I become part of the landscape myself.  I used scrap materials for the form and used clamps for making the first curved ribs.  I used up all the clamps I had that would fit and kept them engaged for 24-hours (I used T3 adhesive).

I got smarter.  On subsequent ribs I used deck screws and fender washers to clamp the laminations to the form.  With the addition of crown staples I was able to assemble two ribs per day.

After removing the laminated ribs from the form I restrained them with ratchet straps to keep the correct shape and size, and set them aside.  Once I had enough I could assemble the skeleton and cover it with the screening.

Stay tuned.

Sharpening Impulse Hardened Saw Teeth

Sometimes a willingness to venture “outside the box” yields great rewards.  This is one of those times.

Like probably most of you I have a number of modern saws with impulse hardened tri-faceted teeth.  The upside is that these teeth can be very long lasting.  The downside is that they are brittle and prone to snap off whenever encountering an exceedingly hard material, such as a nail.  I have several saw blades with a gap-toothed grin.  Fortunately, the blades are almost always replaceable.  Unfortunately, until recently, my experience had been that they were impossible to sharpen due to the impulse hardening that made the files skate off of them without affecting any improvement.  I found this frustration to be true for any of the facet-tooth saws I have, whether actual Japanese saws or the Stanley western style saws that employ Japanese-style teeth.

While working at my daughter’s house a while ago with my old-ish Z-brand saw I hit a nail good and hard.  Much to my surprise only one tooth snapped off, but a couple dozen were mushroomed (I’m not good enough with that camera to get a nice pic).  I had never before seen this damage.  Before, the teeth just snapped off.

I certainly had new replacement blades in the drawer, but since the teeth were intact (except for the one) I decided to bring it back to the barn and give it a try to sharpen them.  Using abrasives, first sandpaper then one of my small whetstones, I flattened the back side of every damaged tooth.  Since most of the saw’s use was for rough carpentry and yard work I went ahead and cleaned it up pretty well.

However, when it came to re-shaping the damaged facets even my diamond needle files mostly skated over the hardened tips.  But there in my small container of whetstones for my carving tools was a diamond shaped aluminum oxide “India” stone.  The cross section was exactly like that of the file normally used to sharpen Japanese-stye saw teeth.  I also had a needle-taper stone of the same material.  They both came in handy.

Setting up the sharpening station just like every other saw I’d sharpened in the past umpteen years, “filing” with the “India” whetstones worked like a charm.

In less than a half hour I had the task done.  Prior to the sharpening the saw would still cut after a fashion, 51 strokes to get through a 2×4, but after the sharpening it made it though the same lumber in exactly 1/3 of the strokes, leaving a very nice kerf surface.

It is a good day when you can go to bed after learning something you did not know when you woke up that morning.

Basement Door Frame Replacement

One of the features of much early work (2008-2012) on the barn was the truth that I was always racing to get things done over a weekend before heading back to Mordor.  Since It was weekend-based I was pretty much limited to what materials I had on hand.  If I needed some of “X” but only had some of “Y,” well, I had to make do with “Y.”

This pretty much explains the framing around the door to the first floor.  It was a Sunday evening, so I had an hour, some scrap white pine lumber, and a tube of construction adhesive, and I had to get a door in place before heading home.  Flash forward and it should be no surprise that the doorway was needing an extreme upgrade.

This time I had as much time as I needed, an inventory of pressure treated lumber, a bag of concrete screws, and as much construction adhesive as I might need.  The starting point was un-hanging the door and removing the “framing” which took me a half-hour at most.

I ripped and crosscut the pressure treated lumber, grabbed the appropriate masonry drill bit and my Craftsman hammer drill, and got to work.  A few hours later I was fitting the final pieces.

Now the doorway is set for decades to come.

Second Studio Door Finis

I’m not sure I posted the final picture of the second door finished and hung.  Like the first door I am still noodlin’ the latching hardware and have not yet come to a resolution.

I gotta say, these simple insulated doors have made a tremendous difference to controlling the microclimate inside the studio, especially since I fitted them with high performance gasketing.

Second New Shop Door, Insulation and Skin

With the door frame laying on the flat floor I slathered T3 on all the gluing surfaces and placed the first door skin on it, making sure to align the edges properly.

My primary clamping mechanism for the glue-up was placing fire bricks along the glue lines.  Each fire brick weighs about ten pounds, so I reckon there was just under 400 pounds of dead weight holding everything in place over night.

Once the glue dried for the first skin on the door frame I was able to lift the entire thing up onto sawhorse to work it further.  With a Japanese mortising saw and an Irwin detail saw I cut out the opening for the window.

Then came time for some of my stash of foil-faced polyisocyanurate insulation for the void chambers.

Some more T3, bricks, and all the spring clamps I had available and the assembling was complete.  All that remained was to remove the second skin over the door opening, trim the edges, and trim and insert the insulated glass panel.

Second New Studio Door – Frame

With the first door finished and installed it was time to move on to the second door, which, like the first, would be constructed around an existing panel of insulated glass.   This time it was a leftover panel from the 90 I first bought at a building materials recycling center in order to fabricate the windows in the barn with my pals Craig, Dave, and Long Tom.  The panel was considerably smaller than the one for the first door so the construction and “design” were markedly different.

On the first door the panel of glass was large enough that it was essentially little more than a frame and glass.  Not so with this one, it needed some actual internal framework to hold the panel and thus some spaces to put the requisite rigid insulation infill.  As with the first door the skin was nice 3/16″ plywood.

The construction itself was straightforward with the inner frame being made from clear 2x construction lumber, ripped and planed.  As for the joinery I used my mortiser to punch square holes where they needed to be and the bandsaw for cutting the tenons.  This pic is from the previous door but you get the idea.

Once the mortises and tenons were finished I assembled them with T3, gluing and screwing each joint together.

And with that the frame was done, ready and waiting for the application of the first door skin.  For that step I had to clear a space big enough to work on the entire thing flat and supported.  Given the size of the door, that meant I had to clear some space and do it on the floor.

New Studio Door #1

For the past several years, at least since I had a wood/coal stove and propane wall furnace installed to heat my workspace, I’ve been “making do” with a low rent version of doors in my shop.  These were nothing more than frames with a double layer of polyethylene stapled to them, and they worked surprisingly well.  But. the time had come for me to make something a bit more proper for the entryways to the heated space.

My starting point was a large piece of insulated glass from a former co-worker’s greenhouse; he’d had this panel replaced with a door so of course he thought of me when it came to dispose of the surplus.  I’ve been keeping this piece in my inventory for almost twenty years, waiting for exactly this moment.

Building a door around this panel was a snap.  I used clear 2x construction stock, joined with mortise-and-tenon throughout.  I must say that one of my indispensable machines is the bench-top mortiser.  I think if push came to shove it would be my next-to-last discarded machine, just below my band saw.  Given the unit’s ability to function as a drill press it is a near-perfect twofer.

I sawed and chopped all the mortises and glued them together into the frame around the glass panel.  At the bottom of the door I had a small-ish void into which I placed some 1-1/2″ foil faced panel insulation, again from my stash of recycled inventory.  I faced both sides of the void with some 1/4″ bog-box luan plywood, glued and nailed in place.

Using the same hinges as those on the poly/frame door I got the new door installed almost effortlessly.  Once in place I outfitted the opening with snug weatherstripping and held it closed with a pair of cabinet door catches.  I have not yet decided how to outfit the locking mechanism yet, but with these catches and some surface mounted pulls it works just fine.

And may I say that the unit is much tighter than the predecessor, keeping the cold out and the warm in.  Also, the clarity of the door panel is taking some getting used to.  Even when closed, out of the corner of my eye my initial impulse is to turn and walk over there and close it.

One door down.

Winter Projects (and way beyond) – Doors

This winter will be the one during which I begin to address the door issue in the barn.

For the past 13 years the entrance into my studio space has been delineated by a pair of doors comprised of nice wooden frames with double plastic sheets, shower curtains actually, that have performed surprisingly well.  But, the time has come to install proper insulated doors. Given the odd size of the doorways, determined by unalterable features of the original post-and-beam structure, the two doors into my studio space will need to be custom made.

The standard entry door to the first floor/basement was framed in about two hours if I recall correctly, needing to fit a compression fit jamb using only the things I had on hand one Sunday afternoon before heading back to Mordor.  What I had on hand was some scrap white pine joist stock and a tube of construction adhesive, along with a salvaged insulated door.  Years later this haphazard installation has become decrepit to the point where a good blast of wind or even a curious bear could take it down.

The garage-door opening of the first floor/basement was filled with a pair of four-foot-wide doors I made from 2x, plywood and with insulated glass inserts.  Within a year of their installation (the photo was taken at the completion of the original installation) a howling windstorm caused irreparable damage to them (we get serious hurricane-strength (!) windstorms every year or so out in the holler) and ever since they have just been screwed shut with plastic sheeting covering the entire section from the inside.  One thing has been made clear as a result, namely that I simply did not need a garage door-style access to the inside space as a matter of regular activity.  I’m thinking of building a pair of panels, one screwed in place as an insulated wall and the other openable as a door to allow me to wheel my smelting furnace cart in and out as my foundry work progresses.

Admiring Craftsmanship From Below

One of the things percolating to the top of the “Needs To Be Done on the Homestead” list over the past winter was the clearly evident need to bring some attention to the roof of the cabin.  We had the standing seam roof washed and painted right after we bought the cabin twenty years ago but it was once again showing some age.  I think the metal roof was probably installed around 1980 but there is no evidence one way or another.  I only know it was looking tired in 2001.

My original thought for this summer was to get the old roof pressure washed and coated with roll-on epoxy paint.  (My days of scampering around a steep roof are past, so the only certainty was hiring someone to do the task.)  Asking around I got a sense of what that might cost but ran into a hurdle of finding someone who lives in the area to do the job.  It was then that we saw the new roof going on the house of the farmer from whom we buy milk.  It was a new, beautiful honest-to-goodness traditional standing seam roof, albeit with a  baked enamel finish, and when I asked him about it he told me that one of the Amish families new to our area had done the job.

Not long after that I took Mrs. Barn and the older Barndottir to the new greenhouse just south of town, also operated by the same Amish family.  While there I happened to speak to the father about our possible project and within a fortnight he was up to give me a bid.  His estimate for removing the aged roof and replacing it entirely with brand new baked enamel steel roofing was almost the same price!  The decision was not really hard to make.

Given the large number of aging standing seam metal roofs here in the hinterland he has been kept busy almost non-stop repairing and replacing them.  He told me they moved here to be full-service carpenters (our county has one electrician, one plumber, and two home improvement enterprises so it was fertile territory) but his roofing work has pushed almost everything aside.  We got on the schedule for a new roof in October.  Then two weeks age we were notified that there was an opening in the calendar and our new roof project would begin the following day.

One of the drawbacks to living in such a remote are with such a sparse market of skilled tradesmen is that getting someone to do a job and do it in the time promised is pretty discouraging.  So, when the roofers said they would show up at 9AM the following morning we were anxious to see if it would actually come to pass.

They arrived around 8.30AM.  And, got the cabin roof stripped and installed in one day, using their mobile rolling mill to crimp all of the metal panels on the spot.  Good thing as there was rain in the forecast.  We knew in advance that they would be gone for three days attending a horse auction.

The second work day they also said they would be here around the same starting time.  That was an untruth.  They arrived at 7.20 and began installing the front porch roofing almost as fast as they were stripping off the old.  By early afternoon they were packed up and gone with the flashing, storm clips and gutters installed and the job site cleaned up.  I gladly handed over the check for the full payment.

I for one am thrilled at the prospect of more skilled tradesmen moving in to the region and I am helping a newly arrived Amish blacksmith build a foundry in his shop using one of my smelting furnaces.  Now that is going to be fun!

Siding Progress

When I projected 90 minutes to completion of the living room siding I was off by just a tad.  Yes, the removal of the older siding did take 90 minutes, but installing the new siding took a full day since almost every shingle had to to be fitted and cut individually.  But soon enough and once I finished the corner trim, the wall looked brand new, and it was glorious.  I have not yet decided whether or not to apply a cedar-tone translucent stain to the new siding to preserve the appearance.  Stay tuned.

The only thing left on this wall is to finish re-installing the trim on the upper window and I can call it quits.  This was on the calendar for the Friday after Thanksgiving, but I was instead occupied with more important and transcendent things sitting with my mom in her final hours.

The next step is to address the final section on the upper floor siding above the living room.  That comes in a couple weeks, I hope.