lumber

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.

About Resawing

When it comes to sawing lumber there are three distinct processes.  Crosscutting is the most common to most woodworkers, wherein a longer board is made into a shorter board.  Ripping is when a wider board is cut into two or more narrower boards (one of which may be purely waste material) and is the function for which the table saw was primarily created.  Resawing, by which a thicker board is cut into two thinner boards, is generally the least employed of the three sawing methods.  And if it is done, it is mostly reserved for table saw or bandsaw work.

Because of my own peculiar interests and projects, I find resawing to be a regular function in my studio as I routinely saw my own veneers, both by hand and by bandsaw.  Recently in my preparations for my presentation at the upcoming SAPFM Annual Mid-Year, as I was working on some luan plywood panels to create the set of sample boards reflecting my presentation content, namely the options available to rural colonial craftsmen, I was dissatisfied with the aesthetics of the outcomes.  I decided to make some honest-to-goodness furniture lumber sample boards.  The most readily available material I had was true mahogany of 8-9 inches in width and 1 to 1-1/4″ thick.  In other words just a smidge wider than I could resaw with my upstairs bandsaw.  My downstairs bandsaw with the riser block and beefier motor was out of commission for some maintenance.  So, I decided to resaw the mahogany boards by hand.  [N.B. I would have preferred to use walnut as that would reflect 18th C rural life in the mid-Atlantic region better than imported mahogany, but the lumber for that was at the bottom of a very big pile of lumber.  Nuts to that.]

I used my 3/8″ kerfing saw on all four sides of the boards and got to work (the saw cuts a 1/16″ kerf 3/8″ from the edge of the board, not a 3/8″ kerf).

Back in the day when the Woodworking in America shindigs were a thing one of my favorite presenters was Ron Herman of Antiquity Builders of Columbus, Ohio, who would show up with a half-dozen boxes of carpenter’s saws of almost every iteration known to man, and talk about all things saws and sawing.  I learned  tremendous amount from Ron as he waxed eloquently of things he had been taught and subsequently learned from his many years of restoring and preserving historic buildings.  One thing he said which remains embedded in my brain was, “Make sure the saw fits the job.”  He would then walk the audience through the process of selecting from among the scores of saws he had for a specific task at hand.

Ron’s words were ringing through my ears as I undertook the slicing of my mahogany boards.  The mahogany was dense, and some boards were denser than others.  This required fine-tuning my tool selection to make sure the saw I was using was the best fit for the board itself, and given that the three boards I resawed were different densities, I wound up using three different saws (and tried several others) to get the job done.  Such a conundrum is not present when I am resawing, for example, cypress when the grain is so uniform and the density so creamy I can go at it with my most aggressive saw.  Or, when I am resawing hard cherry or maple.  But when, as in this case, the boards are not uniform in density or even when different sections of the same board differ in character I was switching back and forth between saws.

At this point in my studio trajectory my default starting point for resawing is the Bad Axe one man Roubo saw, which works wonderfully well and did so in this case.  For the densest of the mahogany boards this saw and its 4 t.p.i. configuration was the tool of choice for much of the work.

This time, inspired by this Salko Safic video I decided to try one of my c.1800 frame saws.  With its 2 t.p.i. configuration it cut like a beast on fire but I had a bit of wander on the outfeed side.  Perhaps with a bit more practice…  Or, I could give Mark Harrell a call to ask for some advice on getting the saw to cut dead true.  I had not tried using a four-foot saw by myself much before this, so perhaps all I need is more time in the saddle.  It could also be that Salko is simply a better man than I.

I have two brand new saw plates for four-foot frame saws so maybe a new tool project is coming over the horizon.

The most Ron Herman-ish episode of the excursion was tuning my saw selection to the individual piece of wood.  For the denser board my usual re-saw tool, the vintage 3-1/2 t.p.i.  Disston “skated” over the wood a bit much, even after I gave it a quick tune-up with a file (about five minutes’ worth of work; it took longer to set up my saw sharpening rig than to actually do the touch up).  Switching to the equally vintage 4-1/2 t.p.i. Disston, set up with the exact same specs did the trick.  Both saws were what I call “skin prick sharp” (the teeth are so sharp they grab my skin when I gently press my finger against them) so really the only difference was the tooth spacing.  The 3-1/2 t.p.i. saw worked like a charm on the less dense board.

I might not need Ron’s eight dozen saws in my inventory, but maybe a few more than my dozen-and-a-half could be called for.  I’m always scouting for good vintage saws cheap at flea markets.   All I want is an original depth plate and no kinks.

One final note: I make a point of keeping my saw plates well waxed, stopping to apply a thin swipe of paste wax whenever I feel things “grabbing.”  It makes all the difference.  Normally I use a paste wax made from my 31 Blend but that would have required walking to the other end of the studio to retrieve it.  This tin was right there.

I find resawing to be an immensely rewarding exercise, and I do mean exercise.  It takes a good while and a fair number of calories but the result is exhilarating when done well.  To paraphrase Toshio Odate, “If I find a task pleasurable, why would I want it to be over quickly?”

He is a wise man.

 

A Peculiar(?) Menagerie

Early in our four decades-plus of marriage, Mrs. Barn learned that whenever I was browsing through the card catalog of my 3,000+ record albums, I was in a mood.  Could be a mood of contemplation, sometimes a mood of problem solving, occasionally (or not so occasionally) a mood of being just plain old cranked up about something.  But, she knew to let it run its course.

As I grew older (and perhaps [?] more mature) I could be found browsing my bookshelves instead or just working my way through my collections of vouchered wood samples.  (Sorting the card catalog for my vinyl records was pointless in an age of CDs as the records were placed [and remain] in deep storage.  I recently bought a new cartridge for the turntable and may just dust off the record collection.  But, I digress.)

To this day I find a peculiar comfort in shuffling my version of playing cards, using the fascinating beauty of this natural resource as inspiration for creativity.

To the best of my knowledge these are all vouchered specimens, or at least ostensibly scientifically identified, and the oldest collection dates back maybe 75 years.

Springtime Ritual #1 – Upstream Edition, Part II

With the dovetailed box sides assembled I moved on to attaching the board bottom.  The orientation of the wood there was such that it will cause the maximum swelling and thus compression sealing that panel.

My strategery was to lay down a bead of asphalt and screw thing down tight for each board.  I left each board over-length by about an inch to reduce the risk of splitting from the screws.  I left the end board even longer to allow for a more stable outrigger effect when sitting in the stream after installation.

The successive board was tarred to both the sides and the preceding board.  Tidiness was not the objective, sturdy durability and performance was.  My only real objective was squeeze-out.

When the bottom was in place I turned my attention to one of the side boards that had a bit of surface cracking.  I trowelled on some tar on that whole surface just to make sure it would remain intact.  Probably overkill.

A line of tar on the inside and outside of each corner completed the assembly.  Using a hole drill I installed the shower drain fixture that served as the connector for the penstock water line.

Now all I had to do was make the screen lid and haul the monster up the hill.

Springtime Ritual #1 – Upstream Edition, Part I

Not only was the severity of the winter weather manifest in the damage to the pipeline and master valve, the existing intake setup (pictured above) at the top of the system was thrashed.  The Rubbermaid tub was several yards downstream from the weir (dam) and the copper chute was missing altogether.  I cobbled the system back together to give myself a few days to make a new capturing basin.  The time had come to construct the collector box I have vowed to make ever since installing the system.

Using some of my prized c.1840 11/4 bald cypress lumber I made the box I have always wanted.  The first step was resawing the 11/4 stock into three equal boards roughly 4-feet long and eight inches wide for the long sides and a foot long for the ends, and the requisite number of cross-boards for the bottom.  I started the process by cutting the initial kerfs on the table saw, then finishing the task by hand (the lumber was too wide for my upstairs band saw.  I could’ve used the resaw bandsaw in the basement but would have had to move a whole lot of stuff to excavate it.)  Sorry, no pics for this process.

The boards were foreplaned as the finished surface.  Incidentally, even though the wood is 180+ years old it is still tacky on the inside when re-sawn and planed, and cypress’ typical smell of patchouli oil fills the air!  BTW I hate square-post-through-the-bench-top planing stops a la Roubo and always have.  I much prefer the right-angle stop in the leg vise as shown here.  It’s just how I roll, or rile, or whatever.

With the lumber prepped I set to cutting the dovetails in the corners.  As is my custom I cut the tails on both pieces at the same time.  Normally I nail the two boards together but this time I decided to tape them.

Another of my multitude of peculiarities is a dislike of sawing out the dovetail waste.  I just incise the shoulder, pare out a bit, then go back and wail on the waste.  In a minute or two they are done.  I cut the pins basically the same way.

The dovetailed corners were screwed together with decking crews (pre-drilled and countersunk) since adhesive was not likely to perform permanently under water.  With the screws and the swelling from the moisture I expect these joints to remain tight until forever.  Even so, before installation I slathered the corners inside and out with tar, just to make sure.

Stay tuned