Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Square Deal (41)

Post 41 in an ongoing series. Previous installments can be found in the blog archive to the right of the page (scroll down a bit and you'll see it).


The past several days have been that phase of the project where myriad minor tasks need to be taken care of, one after another, most of which do not amount to any significant difference in the appearance of the pieces. So it feels a bit like I'm just revving with the transmission in neutral. In truth through, the build is nearly complete on the coffee table.

A few pics from various points along the way....

The apron assembly after temporary pegs have been fitted and the mortises for the middle pillow blocks are in:

I'm using some undersized wenge for the temporary pins:

The mortises in the aprons for the middle pillow blocks come in two configurations. Here's the one for the breadboard end sides:

And this is the arrangment for the other two sides - the central mortise is a hair larger:

One more:

The posts have been mortised for the pegs which lock the stretchers into place:

The aprons and front leg arrises have been profiled with concave beads and the fit of the 3-way miters is 99% there:

Today a big snowstorm rolled in an an emergency was declared in Northampton, and they asked people not to drive. So, i brought a bunch of stuff home before lunch.

Time to hit the panels for the side table with the micromesh. I bought a kit with little 2.5" squares of the material, along with a foam rubbing block. Micromesh was originally developed for polishing scratches out of aircraft windscreens. The grit goes up to #12,000, a number which does not correspond to the regular sandpaper grits. The maker of Micromesh states that at #12,000, the scratches left by the paper are invisible to the human eye.

What do you think?:

One of these things which exceeds my skill at photography:

Another try:

The other side panel:

I am happy with the results. I used paraffin oil for lubricating the Micromesh paper, and then wiped off afterwards with methylated spirits. Just needs a coat of wax. Should have the drawer parts done today as well, and maybe the pillow blocks tomorrow. Tomorrow, being Thanksgiving, likely will mean a certain curtailment in work, however I expect I will get a bit done all the same.

I wish my American friends a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. Ready for another one? Post 42

Monday, November 24, 2014

Craftsmanship in Wood - a NEW forum

I made some changes of late to the online Carpentry Study group, the foremost of which is to open the forum section up to the general public.

This forum is meant to serve as meeting and connection place for people who aim to develop themselves as craftspeople, as artisans. It's for people who are on a path of learning and mastery.

While much of the focus will be on Japanese woodworking, the idea is to also encompass traditional woodworking techniques, tools, and approaches from other parts of the globe as well. While the forum uses the term 'craftsmanship', this is not meant to exclude women in any way. The term 'craftspeopleship' didn't quite roll off the tongue so well. All are welcome.

If solid wood carpentry and furniture, joinery, and good tools is your thing, then you will undoubtedly find a place to connect with other like-minded individuals. I've asked several accomplished craftspeople to involve themselves, and they have said yes to that, so I anticipate some great discussions. It's all about sharing and deepening knowledge.

I encourage people to register to the forum using their real names, however do not insist upon it.

Here's the site link:

Craftsmanship In Wood Forum

You have to register before you can access the site, and when you visit the above link without having registered, there will be nothing to see. I administer the site and thus approve all new members, and a good 50% of new registrations are spam bots so it keeps me on my toes.

NOTE: as of March 1st, 2016, due to a high number of spambot registrations, I have changed the security from a q&a format to a request to contact me (admin). Email me and I will provide the 'answer' that will enable you to complete registration. My email contact is listed further down on the right side of the page. Sorry for the extra step, but so far being careful has paid off in no unwanted spam on the forum at all, and I want to keep it that way. The forum is not a place for commercial promotion.

The study group itself will likely be a part of the forum, occupying a category of its own. I have made some past study group projects available for free to new members. The study section alone is viewable by all, however it will require paid subscription to receive the newsletters, mailings and video for new material- please contact me directly if such material might be of interest to you. Study group memberships are the means by which we can pay for the forum hosting and keep me supplied with my favorite brand of potato chips. More on the study group format in an upcoming blog post.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way, and perhaps we'll see you over on the Craftsmanship in Wood Forum?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Square Deal (40)

Post 40 in a continuing series describing the design and build of a pair of tables in bubinga. Previous installments, stretching back to the very dawn of time, can be found in the blog archive to the right of the page.


With losing three days this week to the trip over to Long Island, and all that associated to that, I fell a little behind with progress on the coffee table. In the past couple of days though I have managed to complete all the pillow blocks. Here are the four corner pairs:

A closer look at the four assembled corners, one at a time:



 And 4:

The last one is a hair open on its rear miter, however that portion of the assembly, like all the viewing surfaces shown in the pics above, are not viewable in the assembled table so I can accept that. The photos show the pieces a bit larger than they actually are in reality.

I concentrated my efforts on getting a tight fit on the exterior edge profile interfaces:

The mitered lap joint looks simple enough but I find it is one of the more difficult joints to cut cleanly. There are eight surfaces meeting at the same time, and the four miters need to position things so that the lap surfaces will meet correctly. Too tight in the wrong place and the relish beyond the lap can snap off, too loose and you will have a gap. Miters are especially susceptible to 'gappage' with the slightest over-pare.

The middle pillow blocks are also cut and shaped, and I have started mortising them for their pins. The corner units have received their first coat of finish as well. The aprons have been mortised for the dabo which are to be driven through the pillow blocks (note the 3/8" mortises on the ends of the pillow blocks). I've done another round of fitting with the apron to the posts, and that is getting pretty close to the mark now.

Moving along, steady as she goes. This upcoming week should see me through the remainder of cut out on this piece.

Thanks for dropping by the Carpentry Way. Post 41 awaits.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gateway (XVII)

Things are moving along with the kabukimon project for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I've pulled all the wood out of the dehumidification now, and it has emerged in excellent condition after 6 months. Very minimal degrade (no losses at all) and moisture content in the 10~14% range, which is ideal for a structure to be installed out of doors in this climate. Very relieved that the drying stage went well.

The four largest beams comprise the two posts and a crossbeam, along with a spare crossbeam. These are quite heavy, despite their recent weight loss in the kiln. One of the posts and one of the crossbeams has bowed slightly after losing moisture. These things happen - I wasn't making the decisions to cut the tree and mill the logs, so I would be guessing as to actually what happened. But, this is the nature of the game, and you try to anticipate such eventualities as best you can in the process.

The largest beams needed to be dressed straight and to dimension. They are, however, too heavy to maneuver onto my jointer and through the planer, and besides, the planer can only open 11.8" so i would not be able to plane two of the beams in one dimension. I could have invested in a portable beam planer by Makita or Mafell, but the cost was hard to justify in light of only working the four sticks. Also, even with a portable beam planer, the work would have taken a week at least and I know from experience that the result was unlikely to be perfectly square, straight, and free from wind. It would be close, but not 'dead nuts', and I wanted 'dead nuts'

A commenter on my blog post from a while back put me on to a place where they have a Japanese running planer. It's out on Long Island, New York. When I learned that there was such a machine accessible to me, I knew I had worked out a solution to the issue of processing these larger timbers. All the rest of the material I can handle with my planer and jointer, but the main sticks were important to get as perfect as possible.

I rented a Penske 16' cargo van, and loaded up the beams at the drying facility near my shop. The trip to Long Island could have involved passing through New York city, but what am I, crazy? Traffic there is not something one normally would want to volunteer for unless there was no other option. in this case, there was a good option, and that was the ferry from New London Connecticut to Orient Point, Long Island:

The passage took about an hour and a half, and I arrived after dark to Long Island, an unfamiliar place. I took the truck route from the terminal and about half an hour later got myself lost. The road had minimal lighting, no stores were open, and the signage was on the scant side, as was my map. Anyhow, after a bit of aimless meandering and some teeth gnashing, I found my way to a Holiday Inn in the town of Riverhead.

The next morning I set off for the shop where the running planer was located. I will respect their privacy and not reveal any more about the shop and the staff. They had a forklift and it didn't take too long to get the first long beam in place on the planer deck. The first side was decked and the beam flipped over to the opposite face. It was then clear that the planer was not cutting a straight line as the beam had a hollow zone in the mid-section. So, the next hour was spent re-aligning the support table with string and blocks. Apparently the shop sits on what was once a potato storage building, and the concrete floor in place is a bit marginal for thickness and tends to move. I guess a lot of the far end of Long Island was once potato farms, however now the dominant agricultural business are wineries, of which there are more than a dozen, to my surprise. A lot of the farms are gone and now what are planted are upscale homes.

After a few runs of the running planer, I could see how it operated so I asked if they'd let me run it for the rest of the day so they could carry on with their normal business. So, that's what I did, and they'd come and help flip the beams over to other faces from time to time and then return to their work. The planer is situated under a steel I-beam with a block and tackle lift, so it was fairly simple to rig the middle of the beam with a lifting strap and flip it over.

Here we are at the final pass on the last post - I filmed as I operated the controls of the Marusan (warning: you might want to turn the volume down a tad):

I imagine most readers have never seen such a machine before. It's a very cool piece of equipment, and if I got a project to build a larger building I would be thinking strongly of obtaining such a machine. Okay, I'll admit, I'm drooling a bit, feeling a little tool envy. The results obtained with the planer were perfect, and taking trouble of this step has saved me a huge amount of labor and improved outcomes, so it was well worth it. The sticks are dead straight and square.

Here's a picture from the company website:

Not what you would call an especially sophisticated website - the above picture is the summation of their marketing effort with that machine.

There are even larger running planers made in Japan, like this one:

A running planer is not an inexpensive tool however - when purchased, the one I had access to was a slightly used machine, and still cost around $30,000. There is a lathe attachment for it as well, so large timbers can be planed into cylindrical or polygonal columns with ease. Here's an example of such an attachment on another running planer:

There have been a few issues with the electronics on the machine I was using which have added something like $8000 since original purchase, and the problem is unfortunately not fully resolved. Normally the machine can be run fully automatically - set your dimension and it planes the material down in a series of passes until that dimension is reached, allowing you to work on other stuff in the meantime. The machine does not operate currently on full auto, so you have to press 'forward' after setting desired dimension, walk along as it planes, press 'stop' raise the cutter, and then press 'reverse'. It means you have to be attending to it as it works, which is like most other machines we use. Still, it's a drag to put all that money into a machine and it still not be working exactly as it should.

A neat feature is that the planer can also climb cut  - that is, plane while it is traveling backwards. I didn't use that feature in the above video as it was the final pass but had done so earlier in processing. Cutting forwards, you can take around 1/8" (3mm) per pass, and cutting backwards take another 1/16" (1mm) or so, though the chip collection is a little inferior when climb cutting. Still it was a very cool experience with that machine, and again, I was so glad to have made the trip to access it and have things turn out so well. The people running the shop were extremely kind and helpful, and made the process a smooth one.

I just made the 5:00pm ferry and got back to Western MA later in the evening. This morning I returned with the truck to the shop for the, er, grand unloading. Where's that forklift and that team of rugby players looking for a workout when you need them?:

The extra chunks you see on the right were the mis-cut pieces from the mill that I had received on the initial shipment. They had milled a 16' beam and then chopped it into three pieces by mistake. I got these planed as well and do have use for them on this gate project.

My main goals for the unloading process were to avid inflicting any damage on the freshly-planed sticks, and to not trash my body, in that order.

The short chunks were barely lift-able, but it didn't take too long to get them out.  After they were removed from the scene, I started in on one of the 16' (4.9m) beams. I was able to get it sliding forward through a combination of lever bars, and a 'Nautilus leg press' sort of stunt work, and here we are most of the way out of the box:

A few day's prior I had purchased a couple of wheels and a steel bar for an axle at a local Tractor Supply company and had fabricated this two-wheel cart:

It worked like a charm.

A few hours later I had the POC beams out of the box truck and stacked in my shop:

A view from the other end:

Here's another pile, mostly parts for doors, and the roofed kiosk standing up to the right side, which will have some post repair done in the near future:

I managed not to do any damage to the material, my body, or the truck, so the mission was a success! Yay!

Thanks for dropping by the Carpentry Way. On to post 18.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

TAJCD Volume IV - Now Expanded!

The Art of Japanese Carpentry Drawing, Volume IV, has just been significantly revised and expanded. Over 100 addition pages of material detailing a roof carpentry application for the sawhorse -yes, "the Sawhorse in the roof" - has been added to this volume, making for a total of 250 pages.

The askew common rafter is a layout challenge, and the current focus of the Japanese Carpentry Exam, level 2. Nowhere on the planet will you find this problem addressed in more detail and thoroughness than in the expanded TAJCD Volume IV.

Here's the table of contents, giving an overview as to the breadth of material:

And a sample page of the new material:

The previous version of Volume IV, 145 pages or so, was priced at $35.00. The expanded version is only modestly increased in price, to $40.00. Previous purchasers of the old TAJCD Volume IV essay may obtain the expanded edition for just $20.00.

Please contact me directly (kurisuhoru [at] gmail [dot] com) to purchase this or other TAJCD Volumes.


Volume V is also getting close to release - looking at 240+ pages on regular hip roof work, in the Japanese manner. This essay is going to be released in the next 2 weeks I expect. The material is written and compiled now, it is the long road of the editing process which currently occupies me.

All for today -  thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Square Deal (39)

A series of post describing the design and construction of a pair of tables in bubinga. Previous installments can be located in the 'blog archive' to the right of the page.


A reasonably productive session today on the coffee table cut out, with pictures to prove it no less.

The first order of business was to fit the stretchers to the legs. As the stretcher tenons were only 2~4 thousandths fat, the fitting didn't take too long at all and came out satisfactorily. Here's the assembly after all were fitted:

Let's have a look around the four corners:



And 4:

These will all be pegged later on.

With the stretchers holding the legs at a fixed distance, I could confirm that the apron parts were fitting as they should:

A closer look reveals both the engagement at the 1/16" rebate (on the lower edge of apron in the picture below) and shows the leg tenon centered on the mortise:

It's nice when things are sitting where they are supposed to sit.

The other side:

That looked like it would fly, so onto fitting the aprons to the leg tenons:

With that more or less sorted, I spent some time constructing a paring jig to deal with the miter interfaces. Late in the day I was at the 95% mark with the trimming and could do a test fitting of the apron assembly to the leg and stretcher assembly:

Getting closer:


Corner 2:

Corner 3:

Corner 4:

Looking okay I thought for the first go-round. The floor is not exactly flat, which can throw things off a hair here and there, so when I return to work on this I'll probably park it on top of a table saw to obtain a better reference surface.

At this point the miters remain a hair long, at least on the posts, and the apron does not seat all the way down yet onto the post's tenon shoulders:

When I return to the scene with fresh eyes and mind I can assess where the fit is at and decide upon where the final paring has to happen to achieve a good fit. The last few percent, as usual, can take most of the time.

All for today - thanks for your visit to the Carpentry Way. On to post 40.