Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Following Mazerolle: Lucarne Et Nolet Éventail (II)

Today has been full of ups and downs and ups. This morning I woke up to an e-mail from one of the purchasers of the Japanese Carpentry drawing essays. This gentleman had completed the hopper project, and the kōkogen slope data table, and was ready for the exam. Good work!! Now I have to prepare an exam of course, which will take a few hours, but I was psyched to see someone work their way through the 130-odd pages successfully. The pace has been set, the glove thrown down as it were.

I then set to work on the fan-tail dormer in the Mazerolle charpente text and was running into various difficulties. After a couple of hours and mounting frustration, I took a break and went down the street to buy a little 12/4 pattern grade mahogany (genuine), and run it through the jointer and planer. This is some of the material for the upcoming build of a Japanese free-standing screen, or tsuitate.

I was telling the guys down the road that I had just about reached the end of my rope here with the Mazerolle book and was ready to pack it in and put my attention to something else. Returning home, I had a bit to eat and sat down in front of the drawing again for one last look. Yep, it has some problems alright, just like all the rest of them.

I tried a little reverse engineering, and this time had a breakthrough where I was able to determine what exactly was screwed up in the original sketch. Freaky! In the previous post on this topic, I mentioned how the portion of the drawing which developed a section view of the ridgepole was erroneous - now I have figured out that the view produced is actually of the ridge in a plumb section. That view is not much use, mind you, for placing the piece directly on the drawing and connecting points, but it did clear up the location of some of other lines which had developed from it.

Those lines were also in error due to a portion of the drawing showing some other lines which were simply not where they should have been. Here is the problematic section of the drawing in the book, just to illustrate the nature of the difficulty:


Notice the line running along from the apparent section of the ridgepole (way over on the left) to point P' all to the way to the right? Then notice the line below it marked with an 'N', which means niveau, a fold line. Those lines are not parallel, but they should be. The line running from k to P' should be parallel to the niveau.

Here's a view a little closer in:


Notice the line from the lower surface of the ridge, marked "Dessous du faitage paralléle...(to line kP') - it says that the lower surface line runs parallel to the other line going from k to P'. Well, parallel it should be, but the line kP' is not going the right way anyhow, so neither is the lower line. Notice in the drawing the points marked 1, 2, 3, and 4 - these are used to transfer points to another view in the plan and since line kP' is not aligned correctly, and neither is the lower surface line, points 2 and 3 end up being in the wrong place -- not by much but enough to screw things up if you marked the wood directly by transfer on the other part of the plan. With a little reverse drawing from the completed 3D parts on top of the 2D plan, I was able to determine the correct arrangement. I still don't get everything on the drawing, but had enough to produce developed views of all the parts in the end.

Anyway, I survived it. Here's the completed fan-tail dormer, or Lucarne Éventail:


Standing on the floor looking out:


If you stood inside the dormer and could see the exposed wood (not how it would be done I guess in most cases), this is how that would look:


If you could fly over top, here's the view:


It might be hard to tell, but the noulet, or little valleys are pronouncedly trapezoidal in section. They are that shape as it makes for simple bevel cuts on the rafters that attach to them (which in turn makes for a stronger abutment and allows conveniently for a mortise and tenon connection if desired).

Finally, here's how the developed drawing looked:


You can see how I brought the hip rafter and the noulet pieces down to the floor to check and work on correcting the drawing. Here's a closer view showing some of the connections for the lower end of the hip rafter:


The tan colored shadow is the footprint of the rafter on the plate. That hip portion, BTW, was another part of the original drawing that was in error, as it showed the hip rafter foot without the curious little asymmetric birdsmouth (like a high heel in a way) on the bottom. The illustration in the book showed it with a full-width birdsmouth, which is impossible given the position of the hip rafter on the plate.

And last, here's a look at the noulet layout zone:


One valley piece is on the plan in the 'actual length' position, another is kicked up at the actual orientation and slope, and the third, over to the right side, is a development from the first, rotated over to another side. If you look carefully at the kicked up valley piece, you will see it is not square or rectangular in section, as noted earlier: the lower surface is much slimmer than the upper surface.

That's all for today folks, and thanks for dropping by today. If you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the drawing, don't worry - me too! I'll be back to cuttin' wood up soon enough.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Following Mazerolle: Lucarne Et Nolet Éventail

Here we go again. I'm dug in like an Alabama tick with this damn book by Mazerolle and having one more kick at the can. Call me a sucker for punishment, but I cling to the idea that surely, not every drawing is screwed up (?).

If this one is as messed up as the last one, I'll be putting the book down for a while and engaging with other things. So far, so good, with one small exception.

This time it is a dormer that is fan-shaped, or éventail. Personally I like the form. The roof is configured in plan as an irregular pentagon, though it could be arranged as a regular pentagon:


I think a dormer like this would look nice on a pentagonal pavilion roof.

Here's a look at that plan development in process:


I have yet to put the common rafters in and the short valleys, or noulet.

Here's a look at the front elevation - note that the ridge descends rather than being horizontal:


I have left a few of the common rafters pieces out of the main roof at this point as I work out the dormer.

An elevation view from the side, with the hipped dormer I studied in the background:


The hip rafters in this roof are not backed, but like a couple of the legs in the sawhorse project described on this blog a little while back, they are rotated to be flush to each side of the plan:


The ridge is cut plumb at its lower end, and the lower surface of the hip rafters meet the centerline along the lower surface of the ridge exactly:


One of the problems in the drawing I have found so far is a section in the plan where the x-sectional profile of the ridge pole is apparently determined. The profile is not quite right and I haven't worked out yet exactly what the problem with the original drawing is. It's not a significant obstacle to moving the drawing along, so I can let it go for the most part.

The tricky bit, as with the other dormers, are the noulet, and this drawing shows a few differences in that regard, so we'll see how things turn out soon enough.

Thanks for coming by today.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Running the Gauntlet

My well-traveled bandsaw has now done quite a tour: Japan - San Francisco, CA - Gabriola Island, B.C. - Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - and then to Drummondville, Quebec. Yesterday I set off on an advencha to go and get it. Drummondville is about and hour and fifteen minutes drive from the border, and getting to the line took me a little under 4 hours from my home in Massachusetts. I had never been further north in Vermont than the White River Junction, and was a little concerned as I made my way north from there just how hilly and windy it gets in northern Vermont. The highest pass on the entire US route 91, my course for this journey, is 1850' or so, and that pass is located in the north part of Vermont.

My truck is hardly what you might call a race car, and laboring up some of the hills at 50 mph (80km/h), and noting the speed limit signs which showed that the minimum speed limit was 40 mph (60 km/h), I was thinking I stood some chance of a ticket on the return trip, and started mentally playing out the scenario of what I would say to the cop if I got pulled over for going too slow, what would happen if I had to choose another route, etc. You know how it is. Sometimes I find things to worry about.

I got to the border, and there was no line-up at all. A very quiet place. I showed my Canadian passport and I was through in moments. Another hour or so and I was in Drummondville. It was my first tip back to Canada in nearly 2 years and my first time in Quebec. All that struggle in the reading of Mazerolle's book has helped my reading of French quite a bit, though I still found a couple of the highway signs bewildering. The signs aren't bilingual as I had expected, though everyone I came across was bilingual it seemed. That was a good thing because my high-school French is a lost cause, a fossilized shard at best and largely over-written in Japanese.

I pulled in to the trucking depot and found that it was a place designed only for loading semi-trailer trucks, so I was a little apprehensive about how the loading might go, given that my truck's flat deck is 3~4" lower than the semi trailer's floor. That concern was warranted, 'cause the guy with the forklift, coming onto the back lip of my flat deck caused the truck to squish down a bit and that caused the metal plate between the loading dock and my flat deck to slip, which nearly resulted in the forklift pitching off the loading dock in onto my truck, complete with the bandsaw. Fortunately, the driver managed to grind to a halt, but he was stuck, dangling in space. They used a second forklift to tow him and the bandsaw back inside. Whew! It would have made for great photography but it was kinda stressful in the moment and I forgot all about my camera.

Anyway, the forklift carefully dropped my bandsaw at the end of my flat deck and then we borrowed a pallet jack and rolled the bandsaw forward to the headache rack. I wanted it right up against the headache rack and ahead of the rear axle so the front axle could share some of the load. Once in place, I used some timber screws to affix a 3"x4" batten across the end of the pallet to act as a stabilizer, and strapped it down with a pair of 10,000 lb. ratchet straps I bought just for the purpose. Here's how that looked as the first strap was in place:


Now, 1500 lbs (650 kg.) barely fazes my truck at all, but with the load so high and therefore somewhat top-heavy, I was concerned that if I came into a corner too fast there was potential to overturn the whole show, which was definitely something I wanted to avoid. To lose my truck and the bandsaw in one moment would be a total disaster.

Here's a view from the other side:


I added another tie to the left side using a 2-ton come-along. The white perforated board you can see at the bottom of the saw is a holder for the saw's spare blade. The blades are $400 a pop, so I take good care of them, and they are fortunately quite durable and can be re-sharpened several times. My friend on Gabriola Island, B.C. had packed the saw quite nicely.

My concerns about tipping over were completely unfounded. My truck's suspension, which is leaf springs all around, is designed for easy flex for the initial part of the movement. That leads me to worry about the tippiness. However, once you load some weight in there, the ride becomes really sweet and the rear anti-sway bar comes into play and the truck is really stable. I could pretty much drive as normal and found that the torque of the 6-cylinder diesel allowed me to go up hills at a decent speed. I was about 5 mph slower than without a load on the uphill,s and only on one hill did I drop to 40 mph. Otherwise I cruised back at 60~65 mph (100~110 km/h). It truly is a sweet truck and the two years of blood sweat and tears that I put into restoring it all seem so worthwhile at such moments.

Then came the gauntlet - the border re-entry (cue sinister music).

I started off on the wrong foot altogether when I inadvertently nosed the front of my truck about 18" ahead of where it should be in the line-up funnel. That must have caused some buzzer to go off, because the next thing I knew there was a customs person walking toward me and indicating that I needed to back up NOW! Not quite knowing what was happening, I presumed they wanted me to go over to another lane, but as I started to do that I could see that such was not in the mind of the customs officer. He then came over, seemed more annoyed than ever, and gave me a brief lecture, after which I meekly proceeded down the original lane. Again, traffic was virtually non-existent at the border, and as it turned out I was the last thing on the attending custom's officer's shift. She seemed a little grumpy as I pulled up, and the first snarling words out of her mouth were, "what is that contraption on the back of your truck?". That? That little thing? "Uh, that's a bandsaw," was my answer. Then it became a round of twenty questions and I didn't seem to be providing the answers she wanted to hear.

She told me that "you really can't just show up here at the border with something like that on your truck". The tone implied that she thought I was clearly deranged. If she only knew how accurate a characterization that is....

"Oh, but I phoned ahead and asked about it..." was my weak yet truthful reply. She could seem to care less about anything I had to say at that point, and directed me to park under the canopy ahead and go in and see the custom's people inside. Things were not looking so good.

There I got another 15 questions from a different customs agent, however I was able to present the scant circumstantial evidence I had brought with me (consisting of an e-mail exchange with the guy on Gabriola in which he is asking me to move the saw, photographs of yours truly near the saw in my old shop, etc). I had unfortunately lost the original sales receipt, and I was really hoping that what I brought with me would be enough. It was - the guy behind the counter seemed satisfied that I had no plans to terrorize the nation with my bandsaw, and my explanation and evidence convinced him of my ownership of the machine, so he said, "you're good to go." I quickly collected my papers and slipped out the door before he had time to change his mind.

Yee-haw! That was the last hurdle cleared except for the remaining bit of driving. That drive went perfectly fine except for a bit of stress at one stage when my fuel was running low and I was looking for an exit with gas station that had diesel, but that worked out okay, and I was home by 8:00 pm. A 12-hour round trip, door to door.

This morning, I took the machine out to an old mill in a nearby town where I will store the machine for the short term. They have three-phase power there so I could wire it up for use if I need to, and I probably will do just that in the next week or so.

The next step in the process was getting the machine off my truck and into the mill building. They have a hydraulic lift platform, which was sure handy, along with a pallet jack:


With only a minor bit of drama (the pallet jack and the pallet did not fit each other, so we had to lift with only one side of the jack), the saw was off my flat deck and onto the lift platform:


That's Bob there in the background, the building caretaker, who was very kind to help me with getting the machine into the building. I could have done it by myself, but it would have taken hours longer.

The big squeeze was getting it through a low doorway - it had to be dragged a few feet - then back again onto the pallet jack and inside it went:


All told it took about an hour or so to move it inside. If I get a solid enough project in the future I would like to rent that space inside the old mill for a workshop (as do a bunch of other woodworkers currently), but in the meantime my saw has a warm and safe place to stay, and can be moved around easily if need be, and even powered up without much fuss:


The only damage suffered by my saw in this move from coast to coast was a small plastic knob on the fence, which had a piece broken off it at some point. I have a full parts diagram for the machine, and since I can determine the exact part number, it will be a simple matter to order a replacement knob through some contacts in Japan in the near future.

Thanks for coming by today my friends.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Following Mazerolle: Lucarne Biaise À Fronton. Nolet Biais

After the mystification of the previous example, I was wondering if there was much point in continuing, but, not one to let go of an idea too early, I decided I would forge on to the next dormer drawing puzzle in the Louis Mazerolle book from 1866. This next dormer is on a bias - that is, the entire plan of the thing has been pushed sideways to form a parallelogram. Here's the text illustration:


Why on earth would you want to build such a dormer? Well, even Mazerolle notes, d'une application assez rare. I could imagine that if the roof of the building went one direction, and a view or some such thing was angled slightly away from the line of the roof one might opt for such a dormer. Regardless, it is a layout conundrum.

Here's the plan view of the layout:


Note in the middle how the front posts are shaped into parallelogram sections, roughly speaking. Note how the rafters are arranges so as to be on a bias to the line fo the main roof. The layout method shown for determining the noulet, or little valleys, is the same as the method shown in the previous drawing, the Nolet Carré example, and I already found that method didn't work at all, so I wasn't feeling especially encouraged as I undertook this drawing to see the same method being proffered. My hope was that some new piece of information would come to light which would make everything miraculously work out.

Well, here is the dormer on a bias, as far as I have been able to take it:


I wasn't able to make the drawing method shown work for producing the noulet, so I tried to figure it out otherwise, without success. Then I draw it point to point using 3D and was able to make the part. Then I tried to reverse engineer it in the 2D development, for hours and hours I tried, to no avail.

I sent some information to a compagnon that I know, and am hoping he will be able to explain this mystery. In the meantime, I thought I could at least try to finish as much of the drawing as I could. Next stop was the molding which wraps around the front edge of the roof, the moulures de tympan. It's called a tympanium, or drum-shaped molding in English. Here's the section of the drawing that deals with the development of the section which runs along the long sides of the dormer, and the development of the section which climbs the gable at the front:


The slope line, rampant du fronton, indicated that the molding to climb the gable is to be set at it's slope for the development line transfer over from the normal section shown at the right side.

Well, I was skeptical right away when I saw this as it seemed to defy logic. Note how both moldings shown have top surfaces which are square to their inside faces. Now look again at the plan view, which shows the moldings wrapping around the front of the posts with a miter:


So, what the drawing is telling me, and the perspective view also shows, is a mitered connection. It is indicating the molding is to come to the corner, turn about 115˚ on the horizontal and then climb 45˚ uphill, and that the connection between pieces can be both mitered and have squared upper surfaces to the face wall line?! Welcome to the world of fantasy!

I couldn't see how these conditions were going to be met with a piece traveling through an unequal compound miter. Okay, okay, I thought, that doesn't seem likely to work, but let's put our preconceptions to one side and just follow along and see what happens.... Maybe I was seeing it wrong?

Nope, I was seeing it right. Following the development shown in the book, I produced both sections, and put them on the roof and extruded them into one another. They didn't match up at all, in any fashion. The shaped weren't even remotely coincident at the miter.

So, to hell with the drawing in the book!

Next, I used the 'normal section as a basis from which to develop the molding to climb the gable. For this I chopped the normal molding at the horizontal bisection of approximately 57˚. This process took quite a while, as I had to connect all the individual marks which make up the ogee profile on the molding and create a distorted version of same on the climbing piece of molding. Here's how the connection then looks, when connecting at a miter on the face and keeping the upper surface of the molding square to its backside:


As you can see, it doesn't meet at a miter - in fact the climbing piece ends up with a barbe on top. One could I suppose live with that.

Even worse though is what happens when the newly developed climbing moldings is extended from the peak down the other side to meet the opposite long side molding:


No way that's going to fly my friends. If I then reshaped the horizontal molding to fit to the one which descended to meet it, I'd end up with a fairly slim unit, I think noticeably so. It would also mean three separate shapes of moldings to do the job, hardly what one might call efficient. That dog won't hunt.

Then, putting that matter to one side, there's the issue of what happens at the peak of the roof with this arrangement on the climbing moldings:



Notice how the miter line at the peak is turned away from the dormer ridge and is actually perpendicular to the line of the main roof's travel. In fact, if you look closely at the drawing, it seems to indicate that this is the result sought. It looks ungainly to me and I wouldn't build something like that.

Okay, okay, let's see if I make some changes.... I thought, well, let's make the junction at the corners an actual full miter to see what happens:


Voila! problem solved, eh? Is it time for beers?

Uh, not exactly. The effect of rotating the top surface of the climber to meet the horizontal molding is that the climber's top surface is warped thusly:


Ya can't have something like that on a roof. And comparing this set up to the perspective view from the book shown at the top of the page, it would appear that this is not the intended outcome either.

Here's a look again at the method Mazzy shows to develop the tympanium molding:


And here's a comparison of the actual molding section that resulted from my point-to-point connections to produce the part (with a squared upper surface):


If you follow the lines of development, you will see that most of them do not coincide with the actual climbing molding. The drawing in the text is, once again, completely misleading and shows a result which is impossible or unusable. C'est merde.

WTF is up with this book? It's becoming sorta humorous now. How can it be that example after example is basically un-buildable as shown? Somebody help me out here, as I think I'm going to have to turn to hard liquor.

I'm going to have a crack at the next dormer in the book, despite all the issues I have uncovered, 'cause I guess I must be masochistic. The next one looks kinda fun, so I'll have a go, but if it is another unbuildable piece, I think I'll lay the book down for a good while.

Sheesh!  There's more - on to part II

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Good Ole' Days (?)

Given my ripe old age of 44, and the current state of the world, I am prone at times to casting my mind back to earlier times and feeling a certain nostalgia, and a feeling often comes over me that leads me to think that some things were better back then. I know I'm not alone in this habit.

Take the environment. While there seem to be folks out there who deny that humans have anything to do with climate change (and I am not among that group of deniers), regardless of whether humans have impact or not, the climate is definitely changing from my own personal observations, and, not for the better. Not in most places. In fact, I'm currently reading Jame's Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and our Last Chance to Save Humanity, to see what the world's leading climatologist, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for space Studies has to say about the situation. I can report back, at this point, that things are not looking too good. It's not what you might call an inspiring or cheery piece of reading. One of the points he mentions that I thought was interesting was that the ascent of man, so to speak, and his rise to inhabit and dominate every corner of the planet was made possible by a period in the paleo-climatological record where sea levels were very stable and temperatures and rainfall patterns were relatively consistent. That allowed the rise of agriculture, the bounty of the seas, and so forth, which has allowed human population to reach however many billion we are at now. with the balance point shifting into a period of instability, well, the situation is becoming a tad less favorable for humans.

I don't need Hansen however to tell me that the environmental quality is moving in an unsavory direction. I well remember my youth, growing up in south-eastern British Columbia, and exploring the backcountry and byways of the place, on foot, on bicycle, and on the ocean by various craft. As a young boy, I was interested in exploring the natural world, and loved to crawl around the tidal pools to see what creatures lived there, to turn over rocks and see what scrabbled out, and so forth. When I was 10~12 years old, I remember visiting many of the off-laying Gulf Islands by boat with my parents, and seeing beaches covered with oysters and large schools of fish swimming about just under the dock. One time I pulled up a rope that went down into the water to see what might be found on the end, and was startled to find a huge spider crab clinging to the end as I pulled it up. That sort of thing doesn't happen much anymore, at least not in those same places.

That was then. In recent times, as an adult (and I use that term loosely) I lived for 5 years on one of those Gulf Islands, and a couple of those years I was living right on the water. Let me tell you, it ain't the clean un-spoilt paradise of my youth. The beaches aren't covered with oysters, and if they were, they wouldn't be safe to eat. The Red Tide warnings seem semi-permanent of late. The tidal pools are not nearly as teaming with life anymore, and if you flip over a rock, fewer critters seem to live there. It's a noticeably deader environment. The water isn't quite as clear as I remember it once being, the vitality seems somewhat sapped away. It's clearly perceptible. I think that in order to find a comparably 'pristine' coastal environment, one would have to travel half way up the B.C. coastline to find it, and I'm not ever sure about that anymore.

In the ninth grade I went on a few school ski trips up to Whistler and remember the snow being 1 meter deep for the last 25 minutes of the drive up the highway to the resort. That simply doesn't happen anymore. Some years, the ski village gets more rain than snow.

Some places seem to be heading in different directions, like the place I live in now, Massachusetts, which is chock-a-block with trees. It wasn't this way 100 years ago. I live at the the base of one of the many 'Chestnut Hills' to be found in Massachusetts, though the chestnuts are long gone and may never come back due to the Chestnut blight which ravaged them. The blight that humans introduced I should say. Across the road from me is an water-powered sawmill, and the sound of the water pouring over the spillway is ever-present. The mill is non-operational and exists as an historical artifact, though when I think about the raw amount of 'free' energy that is cascading over that spillway day and night and that we put no use to it - in fact it might be illegal to do so - I think we live in a truly insane society. Even without that fact, I sometimes think we live in a truly inane society at the very least. What are we all trying to achieve here? What is the current generations contribution to history going to be?

I was over at the old mill the other day, actually in the house on the other side of the Sawmill River from it, and saw a picture of the mill from about 100 years back, looking from behind the mill towards my current domicile. I was started to see the view of the Chestnut Hill I now live at the base of - not a tree in sight. The whole hillside was shaved clean of trees as far as one could see and I presume the grasslands supported hay production or some such thing. Apparently the soil wasn't good for much in this area. Now it's a dense forest, with 100' trees, which I must say I prefer immensely.

I guess most of Massachusetts was once a wonderful primeval forest with towering trees. According to what I have read, the native Indians intensively managed the forests on the Eastern seaboard, planting nut trees and having controlled burns on a regular basis to keep the understory down and encourage deer to come to feed on the new growth, which they then hunted. When the first whiteys appeared on the scene, they were struck by how 'park like' the forest was, not realizing or even being able to conceptualize the fact that the natives had brought that about deliberately. That was the native mode of resource management. The white settlers of course had other ideas about resource management, and yes, in time they did manage to cut down most of the trees and managed to dam most of the rivers and plough most of the ground up. As I mountain bike through the local forests and come across all the old stone walls and think of the incredible hours of backbreaking labor to move all those rocks, and for what?

The settlers also brought with them diseases which ravaged the native populations to an astounding level, and that factor, more than any other, facilitated the takeover of this continent. This effect was so rapid and devastating that settlers arriving 20 years after the first groups noted the forest to be dark, impenetrable, and foreboding. What happened to the 'park like' setting? After 80~90% of the natives had died off and were no longer doing those controlled burns, and the understory had grown back in.

If you want to read more about the above issue, a book I highly recommend is 1491: New Revelations about America before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann (2005). It really turns most of what we were taught in school, most of the mythology in other words, absolutely on it's head. And I will add that if you're one of those who doesn't like his/her world view disturbed very much, don't read it.

I really wish I could have seen this place in which I now live before the white man came here. I would have loved to have seen the Chestnut trees and other old growth flora. It would have been amazing to walk the seashore on the Atlantic coast. I know it would have been awesome by extrapolation from seeing similar things: back in B.C. there are still a few patches, here and there, of old growth forest and I have had the opportunity to spend time in some of those enclaves. I'm not a religious person in any orthodox sense, however walking in the primeval forest with towering trees, lush mosses and ferns, clean-running brooks -it's just so beautiful that I can't help but feel a spiritual reverence for such spots. And spots they are - to get to most of them entails long depressing drives through clear-cut logging slashes. most of Vancouver Island is clear-cut, virtually a moonscape. I'm not exaggerating. This is stuff you can see from space I'm sure. This slash and re-slash strategy has benefited some few people in the short term, in terms of employment at the very least, but the real wealth we had, well, where has it gone and to what use has it been put? What long term benefits have been realized? Billions of board feet of lumber has been shipped out and many loggers in B.C. are still out of work today and communities in the resource extraction zones still appear to be largely impoverished, crumbling.

And studying history, looking at old photos and so forth, of really any place one goes or lives, it becomes obvious just how much has been obliterated in the name of progress. If that is what progress entails, I don't want it. I'd give up the internet, the disposable shaving blades, the factory produced clothing, the salad ingredients trucked 2000 miles, the Pimp My Ride TV shows and Hollywood disaster mega-movies, the orange and yellow terror alerts, the growing meth lab industry, the strip malls and the cruise ship getaways -all of it - to have that Eden back again. What we gained is not nearly enough for what we lost.

I've traveled a fair bit, especially in Australasia and south East Asia, and have seen similar progress at work there. Almost every place I have been I find myself wishing I could have seen it 100 years ago or more. I dream of having the chance to visit Japan before Commodore Perry got there (it would have helped to be invisible too :^)). I imagine it - anyplace - must have been better, at least in terms of the environment, back then. Of course, that's not always the case. I imagine some spots might not have looked too good after a massive volcanic eruption, for instance. But all in all, these birds I live with tend to foul this nest over time and devour anything in their way.

I think the same can be said of Carpentry and woodworking - that it often looks like what we do nowadays is a degrade from some former glory, that great traditions have been lost, that the old masters had lots of stuff figured out that we will never learn. Well, in the follow up to this post, I intend to take a look at those good ole' days to see what truth might be teased out. To do that, I'll turn to some books written 100 years or more ago to see what they were saying in regards to craft and technical standards.

Until next time then.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Shipping News

For the last couple of week I have been engaged in a transcontinental moving process with my Hitachi bandsaw. It's a hulking 1500lb/640 kg machine with a 4" blade and digital fence etc.. I bought it back in 2003 in San Francisco. From there I had it shipped to an island off the west coast of Canada where I lived for a while. Then, with my move to the US East Coast a couple of years later the machine was put into storage in someone's garage. Then it got moved to another storage garage, and finally the fellow that owned that space needed it back again so it was suddenly time to deal with it.

It's a great machine though I found it slightly intimidating at first. It runs on 3-phase and uses Star-Delta to get rolling - once up to full speed it is quite awesome and with it's Stellite-tipped blade it will slice through most things with ease. It's a dedicated re-saw, and a great machine that I've been holding onto after shedding my other stationary machinery. Hitachi still makes the exact same bandsaw, though of course like most of their heavy duty tools, they don't ship them outside of Japan. For some reason - temporary insanity perhaps - they shipped some to North America in the mid- to late-1980's, and one of those machines was purchased by a fellow in San Francisco with a small printing business out near Pixar studios. He had been using the machine only occasionally to re-saw material for doing wood-block prints. By occasionally, I mean once or twice a year. A few hours here and there. So, this machine is in absolutely mint condition and when he decided to close up his business and sell the machines he had, and some wood too, I was in the right place at the right time. Actually, I wasn't all that timely - by the time I got there, several others had looked at the bandsaw and decided against it. Too scary looking I guess - and the 3-phase aspect deters a lot of buyers. My offer of $1500 was accepted however, as I also purchased a Felder combination machine from the fellow and a few choice planks of wood. Shipping both machines up to Canada cost me about $2500, and at least $1000 of that was due to that border, and the two ferry trips required to get the machines to their destination.

This time, a little savvier about the border and its implications for shipping costs, I decided to arrange to have the machine trucked across Canada to Drummondville, Quebec, which is a 5 hour drive from my current location. My trusty diesel Toyota LandCruiser has a flatdeck and can carry a ton with no problem. My plan is to go up and retrieve the machine and bring it across the border myself, thus eliminating the brokerage fees at least.

Shipping is always an adventure for me it seems and I can count on something going wrong somewhere along the line. Thus far I have co-ordinated a very helpful friend back on the island off the west coast to put the bandsaw on a pallet and plastic wrap it. Then I organized the local building supply people on that island to pick the machine up with their HIAB truck and transfer it to their 10 ton truck and then a week later cart it off that small island and over to Vancouver Island. That all went smoothly. The machine was then picked up, seamlessly, by another trucking company, taken down to Victoria, B.C., then onto the ferry across to the mainland and Vancouver B.C..

And since then the machine has been making its way across the country. That was supposed to take a week, however I then learned it was going to take 10 days. I am not in a particular hurry to receive it, so I didn't both asking why the extra time was involved. Today I got notice that the machine is delivered to the warehouse and ready for pick-up. Dah-dah-dah-dah-daaaahhhh!

One minor detail: while they did ship it to a place beginning with 'D', but it wasn't Drummondville, but rather Dartmouth in Nova Scotia, another 6 hours away to the East.

When I asked them about the pick-up address, and why it wasn't Drummondville in Quebec, there was a definite pause on the line, and a "I'll have to call you back". I laughed. Of course, I should have known that something had to go wrong.

Yep, the machine is in fact now sitting in Nova Scotia, and again, good thing I'm not in a hurry to get it. This will not have been a highly profitable shipping exercise for the company involved, but that's not my problem now is it?

That saga continues - hopefully by the end of this week I will be able to go and get it. I'm looking forward to seeing the old girl.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Following Mazerolle: Lucarne à Croupe Nolet Carré (II)

Now, it wasn't my intention to be devoting two posts to each of the drawings in the Mazerolle book, however, such is the case. I hope no one is falling asleep. Anyway, here we are again, with the hipped dormer problem detailed in the previous post:


Yesterday I mentioned that the drawing in the book for developing the view of the noulet was screwy, so I employed a different technique to produce the pieces. That method led to a perfect result - here you can see how the foot of one of the noulet (in yellow) meets the plate as it should:


My thought, always willing to give the benefit of the doubt, was that there must be some sort of new concept I was unfamiliar with in the Mazerolle drawing, and thought therefore that the best way to figure it out would be to place the completed piece, which I knew to be correct in shape and dimensions, back onto the drawing and reverse engineer it, as it were, to see if I could crack the code. Seems like a reasonable way to proceed, no?

Here's a view of the developing drawing portion, which I situated directly below (ie., in plumb) the actual dormer so as to easily transfer lines roof to floor:


First off, here's the developed drawing portion as shown in Mazerolle:


On the left side is the end portion of the plan view of the hipped dormer. Fig. 2, on the right, is supposed to show the development of the noulet. The piece LMQR is one of those noulet, KNPS is the other.

The weird bit is the establishment of the height, which is length AB. Trouble is, that length is not the same as the actual height of the dormer off the plate, but somewhat shorter. It should be the height off the plate as far as I'm concerned. I used a compass set to that measure AB anywayand looked around the drawing at a few likely places to see if I could find something the same, all the while doing my best in a carefully reading and re-reading of the text in its somewhat inscrutable 19th century carpenter's French. The best I could figure it, length AB was supposed to be the same as the length CE in the following portion of the drawing:


This section is the remainder of the plan view, and shows the noulet looking down from above. Thus length CE is the distance in plan from the foot of the noulet to their heads.

That use of CE as the height AB wasn't making sense, but what the heck - let the reverse engineering begin:


You can see that my rendition looks pretty darn close to the text. I have brought down a copy of one of the 3D noulet, and placed it on top of the plan. Trouble is, it doesn't quite match:


In the above picture you can see that the dimension of the lower face of the noulet, where it meets the plan, is not the same as the drawing. If I drop points down from the corners on the upper face, they don't met the plan at the right spots either.

At the foot end, the fit is also off:


So, I conclude that the method shown in the book on that section doesn't work at all to produce a correct part, though I am open to the possibility of profoundly misunderstanding the purpose of that section of the drawing.

One more detail - the bottom of that drawing in the text showed the means by which a stick of wood can be cut obliquely through its cross section to produce two of the trapezoidal noulets. Here's a focus in on that portion:


You can see two trapezoids touching at one corner. The lower one to the left side is the actual cross section from the 3D noulet which I know to be sized perfectly. The one on the right above is that produced by the drawing method shown in the text - not even close, either in width, height, or angle of cut. Look back to the Fig. two illustration a few pictures up, and see the parts labeled 'a' and 'b' with the arc swung between them. That is what I have reproduced in my drawing above.

Okay, setting that frickin' mess to one side, I went back to the main plan section of the drawing, where it showed another development for the noulet, one where the sauterelle, or bevel gauges, could be used to pick up the relevant angles. I set up my drawing in as close a representation to the one in the book as I could, then dropped the 3D parts down to see what lined up with what:


After a bit of fiddling, more than a bit actually, I was able to achieve congruence between the development in 2D and the part itself:


Trouble is, the drawing in the book is slightly misleading in how it shows things. Take for instance this picture of the cut at the top end of the noulet:


And this is what it actually looks like, note the difference in the form of the yellow trapezoid to the shaded footprint in the drawing above (and the other problems with the way the end of the developed leg looks in that drawing compared with the actual piece):


It's little things like that which can cause a lot of confusion when trying to sort out the connections between pieces and how something is supposed to look. Besides the error with shading the footprint, the book shows some erroneous projection lines. Things like that can lead you down dead ends for long periods of time. It's frustrating.

So, I know more than a few readers out there might be laboring trying to make head or tail of these drawings - it isn't the simplest stuff to get your head around, and that is why so many avoid it. Despite that, I am trying to show as best I can however that the Mazerolle book again seems to be, well, totally screwed up. I hope that you don't need to understand the drawings I have shown to be able to see that there are some problems there. If it wasn't for the luxury of being able to make the parts in 3D, then compare them with the drawing, I really doubt I would be able to sort these issues out.

There are so many pitfalls in following the drawings in the book.

So what to do? Should I keep going in this quest to draw so many of these pieces? It's a major uphill battle, and after such a struggle, probably 20 hours work on the simple hipped dormer, I might anticipate that there will be drawings ahead I won't be able to figure out even after many hours. Is it worth it?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Following Mazerolle: Lucarne à Croupe Nolet Carré

This is the third installment in this series where I will be drawing various carpentry challenges featured in the 19th century Louis Mazerolle text. The next section in the book after the theoretical material, plates 9 through 13, concerns dormers.

Funny how in English we use the word 'dormer', coming from the French word dormīre, meaning 'to sleep' (coming from the same Latin root, dormītōrium, from which we get the word dormitory), while the French themselves use Lucarne. Lucarne translates as 'skylight'. The section on 'skylights', then, by which I mean dormers, comprises 5 different examples in the book. One nice thing is that all the examples sit atop the same slope of main roof (well, it looks that way), so I plan to draw all 5 examples on the same roof structure. The roof slope is 4/3, the same as produced by a 3-4-5 triangle.

Lucarne à Croupe Nolet Carré is the first one I will examine. The word croupe refers to a roof having two hip rafters - this dormer has a hipped end in other words. Nolet is a word one won't find readily in the dictionary. It can also be written noulet and is formed from the word noue, meaning "valley". Nolet is a 'little valley'. The word carré means 'perpendicular', or 'square to'. Thus this type of dormer has a square, hipped end and forms little valleys on the main roof. The problem to be solved largely revolves around those nolets in terms of determining their shape. Funny that this is the first problem to be tacked after the theory section in the book - most other framing books don't introduce anything to do with valleys until long after hip rafters have been explored thoroughly. Oh well, onward anyhow.

There are several ways to tackle valleys in general. One method is to construct a valley rafter, similar to a hip rafter, and which has a inward backing cut.

Another way is to fasten a pair of boards, 1x6 or w.h.y., in the form of an inverted 'V' to the main roof surface to serve as a sill plate for the dormer rafters, ridge (if any), etc. This is the typical sort of solution seen in stick-framed roofs, in the, ahem, good old days before the factory-produced truss packages arrived on the scene.

Another method yet is similar to the one above - a pair of boards are scabbed onto the main roof surface. If you use rectilinear boards for that purpose, their upper surfaces would be co-planer with the main roof, which means that any dormer rafters which come down to meet this board will ned a compound cut on their ends. To avoid this, the boards which are scabbed on can be made in such a cross section - trapezoidal - so that their upper surface is rotated towards the pitch of the dormer roof. The result of this method, where one takes some extra steps to fabricate these trapezoidal cross-section pieces, allows the jack rafters to meet it with a simple bevel cut, which saves work at the other end - and allows for more straightforward mortise and tenon work as well. This is the method shown in Lucarne à Croupe Nolet Carré. Other French books would term this construction method noues chanlattés, or noulet chanlattés.

In new construction, I would normally opt for backed valley rafters as I feel such a structural configuration will be inherently stronger, and I think it is more elegant, more integral. However, if one has to retrofit a dormer to a existing roof, then this method of using a trapezoidal section valley board seems like a good way to go about it. It does use less material than the backed rafter set up as well.

For this dormer drawing, along with the remaining dormers to be explored in the section, I have chosen to put everything onto one drawing, on one building. This sketch I am calling 'Dormerland'.

Welcome then, to Dormerland:


The building is hipped at the far end, gabled at the near end.

The drawing proceeds from constructing an elevation cross-section view -I mocked up the dormer in 3D, then transferred lines down to the floor to do the 2D development of the noulet. I found the Mazerolle drawing quite vexing in this regard, so I opted to use another French book which had a more straightforward method for the developed view:


My plan is to develop the noulet, put them on the model, then work backwards from there to figure out if Mazerolle has some more 'mistakes' in his drawing, or whether the method is just really weird. I'll get back to y'all in the next posting to let you know how that turns out.

The above drawing produced the correct shapes of noulet cross sections:


These section views are then used to develop the stick of wood, which can be up-ended on the drawing and marks transferred. Once the stick is shaped properly (or possibly before), it can be placed back on the drawing and marks are again transferred to the length and cut lines on each end.

Here a view of the dormer with most of the parts all fitted in there:


The noulet are in a contrasting color so they're easy to spot. The rafters each end with a little abutment which is fitted against a moulding, not yet installed in the above view.

Time to put the moulding on then:


Another view:


And from the interior:


One last close up of the noulet, showing how the shape of the boards allows the jack rafters to fit onto them with a simple bevel cut:


The book shows the hipped roof without ridge or post, not exactly my dream way to go about it. Further, he book shows a curious method of bringing the hips and commons all together:


If you look at that junction from underneath, it ain't the most attractive thing:


Both lower ends if the hip cheek cuts can be seen. I thought this looked bad, so I re-arranged things a little:


Now the hips come in a little further and the central common on the short end of the roof is truncated. From below, the view is slightly better:


Now the central common and the hips come together in miters, and the exposed lower end of the cheek cuts are reduced to one one side of each hip. Still I don't really care for it, but I guess it would be all covered over. A ridge or support post would solve it. In Japanese work, the hips are often exposed, and there are some much cleaner solutions for this junction.

Rolling on - thanks for dropping by today.