Next up it’s time to hide the frame

I really like the look of a timber frame against the sky; a giant wooden skeleton, all pegged together.

finished frame
finished frame

Pret designed this one with asymmetrical braces – often braces are at 45-degrees, but these are laid out two feet out from the vertical post, and three feet from the horizontal (either the tie-beam or the plate). He’s right, they look very nice, now that all the mind-crushing & teeth-gnashing is over and the joints all pegged.

It’s been fun this past week having the frame in our view. But this ain’t the old world, with its half-timbered framing tradition, wattle & daub and brick infill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
mythical or not – an attractive look

Here in New England the tradition is to cover the frame with sheathing – the frame only showing inside the building. Not as romantic, not as attractive; but I rarely mess with tradition. Thus, it’s time to cover that thing up.

Yesterday, Nathan Goodwin, a regular at some Plymouth CRAFT events, kindly hauled me in his truck and trailer down to East Freetown Massachusetts, to Gurney’s Sawmill to pick up our order of white pine sheathing/siding and floor boards.

gurney's
I didn’t see Paul at the mill, looks like he’s posing for the sign

I usually buy wood as a log – thus one piece, or a few boards at a time. But this framed building is the largest thing I eve made…so I need more boards than usual.

wow that's a load
wow – that’s a lot of boards for me…

I stacked and stickered the boards, and our next move will be to sheath around the corners of the building, to tie the frame to the sills. Then tackle sheathing the roof, which will then be covered with wooden shingles. And no, I am not making the shingles. There’s only so many hours in the day.

stack 1
stack one of two

If you’re around this area, try Gurney’s – they’re the nicest folks. It’s like stepping back in time… http://www.gurneyssawmill.com/

Did this one go twice?

Yesterday was the day we’ve been waiting for – frame-raising day. Pret & I laid out & cut joinery a little more than part-time for almost 3 months. So many friends gathered on Saturday here by the river, neighbors came to watch (& got roped into driving pins) – and we had a great time assembling & raising the frame.

Back when I did a lot of research into 17th century woodworking, I read M. Halsey Thomas, editor, The Diary of Samuel Sewall 1674-1729 2 volumes, (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1973). On page 11 I found: “Saturday, May 15. (1675) Brother’s house was raised, at the raising of which I was. Two Pins lower Summer. [footnote: Throughout the Diary, Sewall records driving nails or wooden pins in buildings under construction. This gesture of good will and voluntary association with the enterprise is traced by H. W. Haynes to Roman and Old Testament sources…]

I tried to include as many of the visitors as would be willingly led to the deck to drive pins. When else are they going to get a chance to do that? The first timber-frame raising I took part in was at Drew Langsner’s in the mid-1980s. Daniel O’Hagan was the instructor for that class…back in 1959 Daniel wrote a letter to the Catholic Worker newspaper which included this snippet:

“I went to a neighbor’s barn raising last week, and after the heavy beams had gone up and were pinned together, we stopped for a bite to eat. Most of the men were Mennonites, and most came by horse-drawn vehicles.

What an eye-opener and lesson in cooperation, to see 20 men walk over to an enormous oak timber and, after placing stout sticks under it, how gently, how quietly and easily, the great beam rose off the ground and was carried and laid at its destination! No shouting, no profanity, not rattling engines or gears grinding, not even an order to start heaving!

If only co-operation would be ingrained in us as competition has been!”

Yesterday, Maureen, the kids & I were delighted to be hosts to a large group of friends and neighbors, all working together and sharing a great experience. No nail guns or compressors could hold a candle to it!   

I’ll write more about it this week, here’s a gallery of photos, no particular order:

It’s only Tuesday & I already had the highlight of the week

We have lived on the Jones River here in Kingston for 15 years now. We’ve seen lots of things/creatures from our yard. I have kept pretty good track of the birds, (I think 101 species) we’ve only occasionally seen deer (although they’re abundant), coyote, raccoon, skunk, etc. While Pret & I have been working on the frame, we’ve seen an otter several times, Maureen & I found a muskrat on the ice this winter – but today was something altogether unexpected. Here’s the view from the workshop’s site:

what is that

It’s a seal. My assumption is a harbor seal, I think that’s the most common one in eastern Massachusetts. The tide was quite high this morning, and there seemed to be a lot of fish activity, so the presumption is that this seal followed the fish up here.

seal

seal 2

seal face

seal 3

seal nostrils

seal & hump

It’s a pretty short jaunt from here to the bay, unless you go by river – then it winds a bit. But if you’re letting the tide take you, and your following fish, I guess it’s not that big a deal. We’re right near the bottom of this screen shot, just above where the river runs under the road in yellow (3A) –

Screenshot 2016-03-08 16.47.23

Next thing you know, the great white sharks will follow the seal.

more timber framing

I worked a lot today on the shop frame. And took a lot of photos. Finishing up some leftover joinery; then some detail stuff. We’re using a method called “square-rule” joinery, where each timber is cut down right at the joints to a common thickness. In this case, 5 3/4″. That means each mortise gets a housing cut beside it. Here’s some of how I cut this detail.

I make a series of saw kerfs to break up the material to be removed. Angle the saw to cut down to the depth at the front shoulder; the saw is tilted so I don’t cut into the back of the timber, behind the joint.

sawing

Then sneak in there with the toe of the saw to even out these kerfs.

sawing pt 2

Here’s what it looks like after these steps.

saw kerfs

Then, using the chisel bevel down, knock these bits out.

chop

Then pare them down to the required depth.

paring

Sometimes I do this paring with the timber’s face held vertically, it’s easier to see the line I’m paring to that way.

When I’m done paring, I want this shoulder to be less than 90-degrees. That way nothing interferes with the joint closing at assembly.

under square

Then I chop a bit of a bevel at the mortise’s bottom end. A corresponding bevel will be on the tenoned piece.

bevel

The posts and one tie-beam have chamfers on their inside corners. After marking out the width, I start by shaving with a drawknife.

drawknife

Here you can see that I just blocked the timber up so the corner is easy to get at:

chamfer pt 1

Then I dress it a bit with a smooth plane.  plane

The chamfer on the tie-beam has a “stop” I marked it out with a square & awl, then sawed down to the chamfer’s depth. Clean up with a chisel.

chamfer

Then using a chisel bevel down, I cut a curve into the section behind the stop.

bevel down chisel

End result:

stopped chamfer

Then I got out the carving tools to finish off this timber – the first one I worked on, finished it last!

 

 

thoughts while working outdoors

ladderback chairAges ago I was principally a chairmaker and poked around in various bits of green woodworking like basketry, spoon carving and other things centered around riven green wood. Because green wood has always been my starting point, there has always been an outdoors component to my woodworking. Making ladderback chairs, I could pull the shaving horse and a low bench outside, and make the whole chair out there. The notion is the same as this view of me making a garden hurdle:

boring

But as I got more involved in furniture making, much of my work centered around the workbench and shop tools. I still did the initial work outside, splitting and riving the stock, some initial hewing – things like that. But once I was to the bench work, it was indoors with me.

This winter as I’ve been cutting the frame for the workshop, it’s almost all outdoors work. I carved the designs on the timbers inside, and cut some joinery on smaller parts inside while the weather was bad. But as long as it’s been warm enough (a relative term, generally over 25-degrees Farenheit) 99% of the work is outside. We started in December and those days were pretty short…I know some places have less daylight than us as the winter solstice approaches, but here we got about four or five hours of work in on those late-December days. Not all the shortage was due to daylight issues, some of it was simply a case of fitting this work in around general life issues. Working part-time, we got started in December, quit for the holidays, the picked up again in January…

paring

This winter has been a remarkably easy one, especially after last year’s over-100 inches of snow. So we got lots of good-enough weather to layout and cut the joinery. I think since the holiday break, there’s only been one week, maybe two, where there was no chance for cutting joinery. Now we’re closing in on the last couple of weeks of joint-cutting…and I’m noticing the weather, the light, and the landscape changing. It’s easy to be more aware of this being outside all day. Here’s some newly-brighter light on an old saw handle:

stronger sunlight

 

Today I worked about fours hours out there. These days as I’m chopping brace mortises, I’m trimming and fitting the brace’s tenons, then marking them to their dedicated positions. This is the beginning of test-fitting the frame.

brace tenon

 

brace test fit detail

When I first starting working at home 1 1/2 years ago, I had some low work-benches scattered around part of the yard, tucked in front of my riving brake. I couldn’t make joined furniture there, but wove baskets, hewed bowls, and carved spoons at various spots in the U-shaped tangle of benches. It became a favorite spot to gather and make stuff, the kids used it too.

weaving

When it came time to choose the site for the shop, that was the natural choice. The riving brake will have to move before raising day.

riving brake

So that’s where I’ve been much of this winter, when time allows, cutting mortises and tenons, watching the river flow, and keeping tabs on the yardbirds.

river view

accipiter

The shop could have been all framed & sheathed by now had we gone with a nailed-together, 2×4 format. But the way we approached this project was for the long haul. I knew I’m not building another workshop; so I wanted this one to really have a personal touch. As I had written before, it has long been a dream of mine to make my own hand-made building. And with some great help & guidance, it’s coming together. Slowly, but once it’s done, it’ll be  done a long time. And it’s great fun, being out there, working on it.

Meanwhile, the kids have set up a cafe with the off-cuts. Not sure I’d eat or drink there…

off cuts

Weather permitting, I think the frame will go up in March, just as the first flowers will be poking through the leaf-litter. Then we’ll begin closing in the shop, so I’ll be back to working inside just as the nice weather is getting here! I’ll make up for it with windows.

wainscot chairs, front stiles & side rails

Lincoln chair, red oak, walnut & maple
Lincoln chair, red oak, walnut & maple

In between working on the shop frame, I’ve been slowly working on 2 wainscot chairs. It’s been a while since I have made any of these, (the one above is now in the Hingham Massachusetts public library, so I’m told) – a long hiatus means they are again worth a look. The aspect to cover today is the shape of the front stiles, and the resulting configuration of the side rail’s tenon shoulders.

Wainscot chair’s seats are wider at the front than at the rear, so the side rails are angled. So – do you cut angled mortises? Tenons? Or what?

Some have front stiles with a square cross-section. In cutting the front rails’ tenons, it means nothing. 90-degree shoulders, and away you go. On the side rails – what to do? The ones I’ve studied closely have angled tenon shoulders, but the tenon itself is in line with the rail. This keeps the long fibers intact, making a strong tenon. Requires some geometry to get the angles right on those shoulders, I just scribe the whole chair seat full-scale on either the bench top, some clear wide piece of wood, or any other handy surface. Then take the angles from there with an adjustable bevel.

The real challenge is cutting the mortise at an angle. I’m spoiled by cutting most of my joinery in perfect straight grained wood, in which case mortising is easy. In this case, I have to chop the mortise at an angle, so across the fibers. Like those with ordinary wood. Aggghhh.

Back when I made the DVD with Lie-Nielsen on making these chairs, I made two sample joints. Here’s the square stile version, closed and opened.

sq stile angled rail

sq stile angled shoulder open

One hazard with the square stiles and angled mortises is the chance to bust your mortise out the side face of the stile. I’ve done it, and seen it on old chairs. Another way to do it is to plane the front stile to a weird cr0ss-section, and then your rails have 90-degree shoulders no matter whether they are front rails or side rails. And your mortises are parallel to the face they are struck from. Like this:

shaped stile

shaped stile joint open

Sorry that side rail is not quite in focus, but it’s not worth setting it up again! You get the gist of it, the shoulders on that rail are cut at 90-degrees. It’s a weird piece to plane, two corners are 90-degrees, and the others are not. The chairs I’m making now use this kind of front stile. I promptly forgot that & cut one side rail with angled shoulders! Out of practice, but now I’m getting more…

Here’s a somewhat poor shot from the chair I’m now copying, showing the side rail on our right, and the front rail across the top of the photo. You get an idea of the front stile’s cross-section, and the applied molding shows the general angle too.

seat angle

At the side-rail-to-rear-stile joint, it’s immaterial. You have to use an angled shoulder there, because the flat front face of the rear stiles is parallel to the flat front face of the front stiles. too confusing? When I make the rear stiles I’ll show some of that geometry .

The DVD on making wainscot chairs is available from Lie-Nielsen, and I have some copies for sale as well. It’s long, but in it I make parts for 2 chairs, showing both these arrangements. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/home-education-videos/17th-century-wainscot-chair-with-peter-follansbee?node=4243