FORP 2015 – Manhandling Timbers

The first day of FORP 2015 unfolded pretty much the way the first day of FORP 2013 did, as we continued the “get acquainted” niceties — including ogling each others’ tool chests and their contents — and got down to the bidnez of hossing around tons of vintage oak timbers.


At least one tool chest held a secret surprise.

Jameel and Chris reminded everyone about safety (other than a minor chisel-to-thumb incident the week was wonderfully uneventful) and restated the strategy of the week.  Monday and Tuesday were essentially team work in prepping all the stock, and the remaining time was solitary work on individual benches.  My goal along with Jeff and Raney and Will, was to simply be as helpful whenever and wherever needed.


As the participants gathered in the Straitoplaner room to accomplish the first step of flattening the two faces of the timbers, the enthusiasm ran high as you might expect.  I am sure that in the minds of oh, say, two dozen men in the room, the thought “I gotta get me one of these!” flitted ever so briefly in the cranium.  While the machine is magnificent in its capacity for work, and surprisingly quiet at that, finding a place for a machine with the working footprint the size of a cattle trailer and probably the weight of a small dump truck presents insurmountable hurdles for a crowd of whom all work in smallish home-style workshops and studios.


Once the bench top faces were established the pieces were carted into the main workshop.  Most of the bench tops were made from two pieces as required by the timbers themselves; only a handful were single slabs.  But everyone pitched in, and after some fussing with the 12-inch Northfield jointer and retrofitting it with the grandest fence known to mankind, the edge dressing began.



The choreography was a delight to behold and most of the slabs required a complete team of Rouboistas to handle and feed the 150-200 pound workpieces over the jointer bed.


While this was going on Jeff and I reprised our roles as “jig makers” for the sled on the bandsaw that was used to cut the massive dovetail tenons at the end of the legs.  When there are 136 dovetail tenon cuts to be made, such a commitment of time makes sense.  For a single bench, it does not.  The sled we made for FORP 2013 was nowhere to be found, so another version was called for.  This time we made sure to mark the finished sled so it will be around for any future FORPs.



As the work on the Northfield jointer was wrapping up for the day, we got the first notion that Francis, our witty Montrealer, was dancing to a slightly different beat.  He was committed to doing the maximum amount of work by hand, and the result of his hands was impressive.  As he hand planed the gluing edges with his #8, the pile of full-width full-length gossamer ribbons was noted by everyone in the room.


Once the edges were ready, the gluing began.  Since the water content in the wood slabs was variable the adhesive of choice was marine epoxy, a messy but effective material.  Once again “teamwork” was the clarion call, as each gluing was attended to by six or eight of the crew.



Happily all the bench tops were glued up by the end of the day.

Thus endeth the first day.