Monday, July 29, 2013

First Light: Installation (II)

Got my ducks in row today and corralled together the necessary parts and tools to move the foundation work for the garden lantern along a piece.

First off i checked the orientation of the lantern head to the post and then the post to the boulder, so as to know which way was which. I then had to decide which direction to face the lantern as it sits at the confluence of two paths. Once I had made a decision, I placed some tape on top of the boulder to outline the post and delineate the two axes:


Unlike a few years ago, where I hammered the holes through the stone by holding a concrete drill in my hand and pounding with a hammer, I now have an improved tool for this task:


This Makita may not be the worlds finest hammer drill, but appropriate to my use, which is occasional, and the nature of the work the tool does argued against dropping more than $1000. This model has SDS MX capacity, which is the largest size save for hex-shank, and with an adapter I can accommodate SDS plus drills as well. Both SDS PLus and SDS Max are readily available at most building supply centers.

I used a transfer punch to mark holes from the boulder to a piece of wood. The center hole was drilled out to fit over 1/2" PVC conduit, and the other two holes sized for the hammer drill, which is nominally 3/8" in this case. I placed the block onto the foundation in preparation for drilling:


You can see the two holes are slightly offset, a result of my slightly inaccurate manual drilling of the boulder years ago.

Then it was a matter of standing on the block while guiding the drill through both of the holes. Took but a few seconds to complete:


The holes were then vacuumed clean and i was ready to put the fasteners in. I am using a pair of Simpson Titen Hanger bolts for the main mounting, and four smaller Titen hanger bolts for use as jackscrew locations for post leveling:


The bolts went in straight and with relative ease:


The two hanger bolts were done in a minute or two:


Next I marked out the concrete for the four smaller hanger bolts, which I arranged around the perimiter as best I could, taking into account the irregular shape of the boulder  and the off-center location of the holes in that boulder. Again, out with the drill and the holes were done in less than a minute:


Next I will pick up some stainless hex-head bolts to use as jacking screws and some 3/8" redi-rod (aka: All Thread) to fasten the post down. I do not intend to use the redi-rod for anything other than obtaining precise lengths though - they will be temporary. I find threaded rod I have used in the past is too soft and weak for what I want here and intend to get some bolts (possibly) custom made in a higher grade of metal and with rolled threads.

All for now, thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. On to part III.

Friday, July 26, 2013

First Light: Installation

Those who have been visiting this blog for several years, or who have taken the time to plow through older posts, may recall a series from 2009 entitled First Light (← link)

 Following construction of the piece, I went on a lecture tour of sorts, taking the lantern to various public libraries in Massachusetts and Connecticut, where I attempted, however inelegantly, to tell the audiences about Japanese carpentry while at the same time I assembled first the splayed sawhorse then the lantern, step-by-step. The audiences who attended, which varied in size from a dozen people to more than eighty, seemed to greatly enjoy the presentations, and I had some hope I might meet a client along the way, but after some 15 gigs like that no such luck came my way. I moved on to other projects, and the lantern went into storage, where it has been sitting ever since collecting dust in my shop, though well-wrapped and protected.

I decided the lantern should be placed where intended, as an outdoor structure to provide illumination along a pathway. Now that my wife and I have bought a house, we have such a pathway and after some humming and hawing, decided I would put the lantern in my front yard. It will be what the designers call an 'accent' piece I guess.

I live in a community of sorts so first I had to write up a proposal for a 'modification' and that took about two months to come to approval, without issue. Then about 6 weeks ago I dug a 48" deep hole in the front yard and put a 12" sonotube onto a plastic conical footing, aka 'bigfoot' and poured some 400lbs of concrete in there, shovelful by shovelful. In the middle of the pour I added some rebar for reincforcement and crack protection. I have left the concrete to cure for weeks as it takes that long to come to full hardness.

I omitted any picture taking at that time, so all you can see now is the top of the footing poking out of the ground:



 Over to the upper left you can see the river boulder which I laboriously hand chiseled three 3/8" holes through, lacking a hammer drill at that time. That was a distinct memory, but not a good one. The central hole allows the electrical wires to pass through, and the two others are for mounting rods which will be attached to the contrete.

Here's a closer look at the top surface of the fitting, where you can also see the top of the 1/2" PVC conduit and 14g. wires coming through:


The conduit was routed under an asphalted pathway through some judicious boring work with a modified piece of PVC, the ground being fairly sandy so this was not as onerous a task as it may seem. The conduit runs over to the house wall and pops up to a junction box, in which I have wired in a photoelectric switch:


The switch routes power through to the lantern when light levels have dropped, at dusk, and then interrupts the circuit in the early morning after day has broken. From the junction box the conduit heads back underground and then through the basement wall and over to a power source.

Here's a look back from the photoelectric switch over to the lantern foundation where you can see the trench scar starting to heal:


I've obtained some Simpson Titen™ rod hanger bolts which I will mount into the concrete in a few days - these will allow the lantern to be firmly locked down to the concrete and will provide a means of accurately plumbing the lantern post. It's a new idea I have for this type of connection, after having tried several other methods, so we'll see how it goes.

More posts to follow - thanks for coming by. On to part II.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

After the Hiatus

It's been too long since hitting 'publish' on a blog post. I haven't actually fallen off the face of the earth, though it might seem like it. A brief summary of recent happenings:

 - work on the Chinese wheelbarrows continues, albeit at a slow pace as I experiment with different oil-based finishes, and given the lack of any deadline. The weather has been extremely humid in the past month or so, and that has seemed to slow down the cure rate of the oils I am using.

 - a large project looms, and I should have more to say on that in the next couple of weeks.

- I've been in communication with a German guy who pulled a 2-micron shaving at a German Kezurō-kai meet in the past 12 months. He's been willing to answer my questions about plane set up and sharpening in detail, so I have been learning a lot of interesting things about the work of obtaining ultra-thin shavings. Getting a plane to perform at such a high level is a real trip down the rabbit hole, every bit as fascinating as the world of metrology in general as one tries to get things ever flatter and straighter.
An interesting note related by my new friend Werner is that the plane set up which allows such a thin shaving as 2-microns is only a fleeting thing - the dai stability is good for about 30 minutes and the plane needs to be re-sharpened after but two passes. I don't think I'm quite interested in doing what it takes to produce such incredible results, however I am convinced that coming to learn what is involved in getting a plane to perform at such a rarefied level will benefit more mundane planing, where the aim is surface quality and flatness, you know, at 20~30 micron shavings, say.

I've found from measurement, uncertain an area as that turns out to be despite the digital calipers, that I can pull 20 micron shavings without much fuss, and at that can obtain a surface I'm quite happy with.

- Part of the learning and thinking about planes and sharpening over the past months has resulted in a shift tool-wise. I've decided Stanley planes will work for me now. Well, okay, just kidding! No, I'm moving into white steel blades more and more and have acquired several new finishing planes in recent weeks. Of course, I'll leave them alone in my shop to acclimatize for several months (at least) before proceeding to do any set up, and am keen to see how they perform.  I've also obtained a nice natural finishing stone from Japan, and am liking how it works so far on my tools.

-also, my wife and I took a short 1-week vacation recently, heading to Colorado for a look-see. I've spent a week in Colorado, some 13 years ago, and my wife has visited a couple of times at least, and has friends in the Boulder and Denver areas. We spent four days in Boulder, where it seems like everyone is a hyper-fit world class triathelete or cyclist, and a couple of days in Denver too.  I sampled some nice micro-brews and got in three rounds on the fabulous disc golf course in Conifer Colorado, about 1/2 an hour by car from Denver. We also drove up Mt. Evans, which tops out at over 14,000', making it the highest road in the US, and a good place to see how scared some drivers get when there is no guardrail....

While in Boulder I snapped some photos of houses with interesting detailing, and thought I'd share them with readers here.

Many of the houses in this area, close to Chatauqua Park, have early 20th century 'Craftsman' style detailing, with exposed rafter tails and plant-on bracketing being fairly common:


As is often the case, rafter spacing on hip/valley roofed buildings is not well-considered in North American construction, as seen above if you look at the pattern of rafter tails.

Next, some eave brackets, and a pleasing assembly of posts and lintels holding up the corner of the this building:


Here's a house taking the elliptical transom to a new level - too bad the transom shape is not smoothly formed, but it is still okay somehow:
 

Another example with knee-brace bracketing on the eave and decoratively cut rafter tails:

 

This house below has an unusual arrangement of joist ends poking out on the gabled porch end, and simulated purlins on the eave:


That's a very long span between posts though, kind of defying gravity really.

This house does a play on the Tudor style with apparent brick nogging and has a pleasing form in terms of massing and the sinuous roof shapes:


Faux timberwork of course, almost entirely implausible, but not overdone, and the lamp up near the peak is attractive:


Here's a house which seems to draw a cue from American 19th century railway station architecture:


Not sure that scalloping out a chunk of rafter is such a good idea just for the sake of decorative effect.

As a form these red brace assemblies are interesting and all, but largely superfluous in terms of supporting a porch roof, and given the geometry of the brace, one might expect the middle tie to be under rather a lot of tension if it were actually loaded:


Interesting too how long the span of the red eave beam is between the supports - I suspect it uses the rafters in the middle as a point from which to hang:


A cute bulge-out on a gable end to provide some coverage over a window with diagonal muntins:


Not too many examples of the Gambrel roof form, or two-sided Mansard, were to be seen. This example I came across had a sweet little elliptical window up top and a soft flare at the eave:


In the next shot, I worry a bit about the long term effects of allowing the vegetation to grow so close to the house, as this usually results in accelerated wall degradation, but the house is cozily positioned on the lot:


Next, an intriguing little 'window' decoration on the chimney stack's outer wall:


Lastly, an unusual bay window with a tapered form and fake timbering above:


Love how the diagonal strut above the bay window roof does not continue down to meet the beam.

The fake half-timbered or Tudor look on buildings has long bugged me, partly for what is intrinsic to fakery of any kind, but more to the point that the faking of structural timber elements is not even remotely convincing in the majority of cases. It's as if the builder and/or architect didn't actually understand - or care - how a timber structure would really be framed and think that tacking bits of wood on the exterior to simulate posts, beams, and bracing is something one can do in a willy-nilly fashion. Well, since it is decoration, it doesn't really matter however there is the niggling point that a certain effect is being strove after with these tacked-on pieces, that somehow the half-timbered architecture is worthy of emulating somehow - perhaps because it conveys 'tradition' or 'authenticity'?

Of course, in some regions of the world - England, France and Germany in particular - decorative bracing on timber buildings did reach certain heights of silliness after a while, in the 'if you've got it flaunt it' tradition, but at least the core elements among which the braces were fitted were arranged to work properly as a frame. Since faux timbers are so much easier to place than real ones, I wonder why more builders do not make an effort to attempt some measure of realism? Come to think of it, I cannot recall one instance of seeing a faux Tudor that was convincing in what it was depicting. What do you think - what's behind this odd imitation without seeming to care that the imitation is as if done by a drunk or half-blind person?

I'll save the best for last. Here the builder has come up with what they must think is a 'cool' way to support the porch roof:


From observation of older buildings, fences, and so forth, it can readily be seen that placing wood out in the weather is akin to a death sentence, that roofs are vital over wood elements of any kind, and that roofs should have a minimum number of penetrations for weather-tightness. Here though, such ideas are turned on their head and important structural elements are poked right through the roof by more than a foot, without even some cursory metal capping on the exposed end grain:


Gotta love the optimism expressed by such ill-advised framing methods. It provided some humor at least, and I chuckle as I look at it now.

All for today. Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way.