Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Light XL

Post XL - that's '40' for those, like me, not completely in tune with Roman numerals, not 'extra-large'. This series has been detailing the construction of a Japanese garden lantern - previous installments can be found to the right of the page in the archive section.

I've been working steadily on the lantern, but don't have a huge number of new photos to add today. I'd like to finish off from the previous post though, detailing the completion of the locking mechanism for the removable housing grill assembly.

After the locking keys were fitted to the vertical frames of the removable grille, I then transferred marks over to the flanking posts and mortised out the slots that receive the keys. These openings receive a slight chamfer with a chisel to facilitate entry of their respective keys:


After checking each vertical bar and key independently to see how they fitted, I re-assembled the removable frame and tried it up for fit:


The frame and the keys push in snugly:


The completed removable unit sits in there fairly discretely I think:


Since then, I have slotted out the frames to receive the frosted glass panels, and completed a cardstock template for the glass. This morning I am heading out to a local glass place to get those four panels made up. I will hold off on final glue-up of the grille panels until I have the glass in hand and can double check that they will fit.

At this point then, the bulk of the construction phase is complete, though I still have a fair amount of work to do. Besides getting the glass ordered today, I will be looking at electrical parts, and I have some problem solving ahead in regards to the issue of chasing the wires from the underside of the lantern housing floor up to the ceiling board.

I also will be painting. Yes, the entire lantern is to be painted lime green, and of course the roof must, as hallowed tradition dictates, be lavender with orange stripes.

Just kidding - however there will be paint involved. Since this lantern is designed to be outside, it will take a fair beating from the weather, and that means the weak points, in terms of longevity and resistance to degrade, are the end grain exposures of the various wooden members. While I know that Mahogany is among the most durable of woods, I was curious to know how the Mahogany end grain would fare in exposure to direct sun, so a while back I tossed a couple of offcuts on the burn pile in the yard, where over the course of several weeks they would get a good blast of sunshine (not that there has been an exceptional abundance of sunshine in the New England region this 'summer'!). Here is the result of that experiment:


As you can see, cracks have begun precipitating from the end grain. This is not desired, to say the least. Thus, the decision is made - I will follow Japanese practice and paint all the exposed end grain white. While I think I prefer the au naturel look - that is, without any paint - in the see-saw of decisions to be made between aesthetics and practicality, in this case I need to place a bit more weight over to the practical side, as ultimate durability is a design goal every bit as important as any other. The choice of white paint is obvious, as white reflects light the most effectively. So, I'll be shopping for paint today too, something I don't know much about, but I'm sure there will be plenty of options.

The practice of painting end grain is employed on many Japanese timber structures, and the majority of lanterns I have seen. Here's an example of a lantern with a copper-shingled pyramidal roof:


As I said at the beginning of this thread, the lantern I have made for a first attempt is but moderately complex in comparison to some I have seen, the above being a good example of a more involved work.

Then there is the matter of the boulder that the lantern post will mount upon. After much searching and bushwhacking, I have dragged three candidate rocks out of the forest and creek beds in this area - yet I am still not quite satisfied that I have found the right rock yet. You would think, given the high abundance of stones in the ground in this part of the country (a point of some infamy in the history of farming here I might add) that finding something suitable would be easy, but not so. When you're looking for a very particular shape (flat on the bottom, crowned on the top), in a particular size (about 100 lbs/45kg. max), and with a certain surface quality (smooth, not pockmarked), and, ideally, colour as well (white would be optimum) - then finding the perfect little boulder is pretty much a needle in a haystack affair. So, that search continues for the next little while at least, and once (if) I do find a suitable rock, I will need to rent a hammer drill and put three holes into it - two for fixing rods, and one for the electrical.

There are some joinery mechanisms yet to be made as well, involving long internal draw bars, locking wedges and a few fixing pins - I'll detail the making and installation of those components soon enough. The lantern will need a complete dis-assembly, the chase for the wire needs to be milled up in the inside of the 4-section post, and the various parts will require final chamfering and finish planing.

At this point, it looks like I have a a solid week of work to go until completion of the lantern, so that should mean another 3~5 posts in this thread. I hope readers will stay tuned for those installments. Thanks for hanging in there with me. On to post 41.

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