Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tréteau XIV

Back to the Mazerolle tréteau, or, welcome to my nightmare. This sawhorse serves as a vehicle for roof carpentry study, and I do need more than one sawhorse, so what the heck! Previous installments are found in the 'Blog Archive' to the right of the page.

One thing I'm thinking of doing a little differently from now on with these longer threads is to reference what I am doing in each thread to the project as a whole. I can imagine with lots of parts and some similar regimes of cut-out, it can sometimes be a little confusing for the reader trying to ascertain exactly what I am up to at a given stage.

Today I'm going to show the cut out work on the long side x-braces, or the les croix de Saint André, indicated in red in the following picture:

The Saint André crosses, by the way, would be translated as 'Saint Andrew's crosses' in English, though actually in English they are called 'saltire' braces. Funny enough, there's no getting away from the French language here with the term, as the origin of the word 'saltire' is old French saultoir/sautoir, which in turn comes from the Late Latin saltātōrium, meaning 'stirrup' and ultimately from Latin saltāre, which means 'to leap'.

The first order of business was to process these two lap joints, which are mitered half-laps, with the miter unequal on each side of the brace member. So, first I laid out the two miter angles on a stick of red oak, then hand-sawed to the line and planed them true. Here we are part way through that process:

After the surface is decked flat, I check with the bevel gauge and adjust as necessary until the bevel is where I want it:

Then the block is clamped in position and the chopping commences:

After all sides are pared, this is how things look:

Time for a little togetherness:

One side ended up with a slight gap at one miter, unexpectedly:

Here's the backside of the same crossing:

Notice the small chip-out at the upper intersection. Fortunately, I didn't lose the little piece and was able to epoxy it back on later.

Now it was time for the fiendish part - the angled tapered mortises. I wasn't expecting it to be such a good time, though it was really just a matter of patience.

The mortises slope two directions and taper, and while my first thought was to run screaming, in the end I decided to fix the stick atop my sawhorse with a couple of pieces of mdf acting as shims to incline the piece, so as to relieve me of having to angle in two awkward directions with the drill:

Clamped down, I was ready to drill, which was a combination of eye-balling and prayer:

Typically, this was the point where the drilling left off...

...and the chopping could begin:

I have eight of these nasties to cut out - here's one:

And I'll take the other ones up next time, as I've reached my self-imposed 15-picture posting limit. Hope to see you next time. Thanks for dropping by. --> Go to post XV

Friday, January 29, 2010

French Connection 8

The drawing process with the trépied établi has moved along somewhat - the third side x-braces are now drawn, and let me tell you, they were by far the most challenging layout on the piece:

The first set of braces have faces in the same plane as the slope; the second set have side faces plumb to the floor, and this third set has it's top faces rotated so as to meet the top beam flush.

Here's what might be called a worm's eye view looking at the inside of the bench - the second set of braces (faces plumb to floor) are on the left side, while the third set are on the right:

In the bird's eye view, this third set has an attractive zig-zag pattern formed where the two braces cross one another (left side of drawing):

Compare to the plumb braces on the right side of the above drawing and you can see the difference more clearly at the crossing.

While I still have a fair amount of drawing work to do, and I can assure you that I am just barely hanging on to the ledge, as it were, when it comes to the lay out method for the third set of braces, I feel like I have made some good progress in relatively short order on this piece.

I was also able to take advantage of some features provided by SketchUp and play with the form a little. Here's a 6-sided version with a glass top and contrasting woods:

I'm thinking this would make a nice coffee table. Looking straight down through the glass would show an attractive pattern I think:

And if you wanted to lie underneath it and look up, which is the sort of thing I would do, it would look like this:

And one last shot emphasizing the 'bird's nest' of braces:

Then I decided to try another configuration, one that would be pretty insane to build and likely impossible to assemble with mortise and tenon joinery - a 12-sided version:

I didn't bother cleaning the image up of the trace lines, as I have no plan to make such an item. Still, it is pretty neat to look at all the same (or is this just in my warped view of things?):

Looking from underneath, it almost looks like a basket:

One last one:

Anyhow, enough of the theoretical for the time being. I have been working on the Mazerolle tréteau project again, and will be posting another installment on that thread soon enough. I've also started that book review I mentioned recently, and that will probably take a while to complete. This coming Monday I should be heading to the Boston Children's Museum to install the fold-up bench in the machi-ya. Photos of that process will be forthcoming shortly thereafter, to close out that thread.

Thanks for dropping by today!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Today is a really good day. Now, it's snowing outside and I have a bunch of laundry to deal with, but I'm in a very good mood. Why? Well, dammit, why not! Just kidding, I do have my reasons though....

First and foremost, today is January 28th, which means that the Carpentry Way blog is now 1 year old!! Yay! What started out as a suggestion from a friend, a certain Dale Osowski, has managed to lumber and blunder it's way through a full 365 days. Imagine that! While I have managed to offend a couple of people along the way, to my chagrin, all in all, this blog has been, it seems, gaining a real head of steam. At the 100 post mark last year, I had some 20,000 page views and about 20 Followers. As of today, with this post (#181), there are now over 53,000 page views and the followers list has grown to 53!

I'd really like to thank everyone for your interest in what I have to say and in the many supportive comments I have received over the past year. You can be sure I will continue my efforts in developing this blog further in the coming 12 months.

A second reason relates to my recent progress in French carpentry drawing. I worked a while on the five-legged bench, and then discovered some reasons why Mazerolle drew the three-legged joiner's bench, trépied établi, with the legs normal to plan and not to the top beams. The reason is a little complicated, but it relates to tenon arrangements in the legs, and what can I say, but the dude was pretty damn clever.

So, I put the five-legged bench drawing aside and commenced working the trépied établi in SketchUp. After the hours and hours of work on the Mazerolle sawhorse, I am now able to process the trépied drawing much faster, and this has led to a deeper understanding of the method - well, I can now focus on the things that are left which I don't fully understand. It's hardly the case that I'm not confused from time to time, but the points of stuckness seem to break up a little sooner each time, usually after a night of sleep.

I'm only spending a couple of hours per day on this drawing, and I 'd like to share the progress thus far. As before, I draw in 2D in plan, then erect the heights right off the plan to develop the piece in 3D.

The first matter was to draw the legs and beam -and let me tell you, getting the position of the beam correct is a freakin' hassle in SketchUp as it lacks a tangent line to circle function. Anyway, I managed to get through that, and then the first order of business was the good old St. André's Cross on one side. Here's how that looks:

One of the trade-offs for orienting the legs normal to plan (which in the drawing above is a hexagon outline on the floor), is that the legs do not meet the beams cleanly, just as I had thought before when tackling the drawing in 2D only. In 3D, the situation is all too obvious:

I can't say I care for that appearance at all! What is gained by that orientation, is however worth the inconvenience of dealing with the offset. There are a few solutions which come to mind, but I think the one I will go with is to truncate the excess protrusion so it is only slightly proud of the meeting point at the underside of the beam:

Meanwhile, here's how the same post connects on the other side of that beam:

Hello Monsieur barbe, we meet again!

This is a three-legged bench, and the point of it is to study various possibilities for x-brace arrangements. I have completed two of the three sides now - the side pictured below has each brace with its sides plumb to the floor:

An 'insider' view, so the two different brace crossings can be compared:

The joinery for that plumb-oriented brace intersection cannot obviously be a lap joint, so I will be delving into the Japanese carpentry bag of tricks to solve the connection. The French seem to simply nail such connections as far as I can tell.

Speaking of Japanese carpentry, and more specifically Japanese carpentry drawing, I am very pleased to announce that my first essay, Volumes I and II, is now ready for distribution!!!:

Volume I deals with basic mathematics and trigonometry for carpentry drawing: and Volume II concerns the "Fundamentals of Kō-ko-gen", the Japanese 'rise-run-hypotenuse' method for dealing with some types of compound joinery. All told, the two volumes comprising this first essay runs to 131 pages in total, and is listed to sell (I hope) for $32.50. I have chosen to put it on Ebay, as that forms a convenient place for handling the sales, though paypal will take a little off the top ($3.60) from me of course - that's why I have added $2.50 to the price to offset that charge. Anyone with paypal can readily purchase the Japanese Carpentry Drawing essay there. If you don't like Ebay, or don't want to use paypal, then please contact me directly. I will accept postal money orders, and so forth. Direct sales from me will be @ $30.00

Here's a couple more sneak peaks. This first one is illustrating one of the steps in determining square roots with the framing square:

The Japanese unit circle, with the sub-sections of the triangle labeled:

Drawing the sine:
Here's a problem that's got some legs - well, one leg at least:

I put a lot of work into the essay, countless hours, and I'm sure there will be revisions to come - the revisions, by the way, will be provided free of charge to original purchasers. I frankly can't stand another round of editing right now. I have placed a link at the right of the page to the Ebay advert, and I hope readers will consider adding the essay to their database. Soon to come will be the exam material for these first two volumes - - that can wait until readers are ready however, so I expect I have a few weeks yet before I need to prepare those materials.

A good day - I hope yours is going well too.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dribs and Drabs, too

Not a lot to report today. While I wait for a break in the weather to take the battari shōgi out to the museum for the final install, I have been puttering around with various projects. One of them, pictured above, is a five-legged version of the Mazerolle trépied etabli (detailed in last year's post French Connection Part Deux) that I have started playing around with. So far I have drawn in one possible x-brace arrangement. Each of the openings between the posts will have a different type of x-brace arrangement. I think I might draw one with a inclined reciprocal beam arrangement as well, in which the posts go right to the top and directly support the glass top. By reciprocal beam arrangement, I mean something like this:

There are so many possibilities to choose amongst - it's great to have the option of drawing in 3D to compare different pieces.

I have also been relentlessly re-editing the Japanese carpentry layout essay, Volume I and II, and am doing my best to have it ready for the 28th. Of this month I mean. I'm serious! It's amazing how much time it takes to re-edit and re-edit and rearrange the darn thing. And I know that even once I'm finished, there will be more errors that will come to light, but these can be amended over time, and I'm looking forward to reader feedback which will enable me to improve the product.

I had an interesting experience recently with hardware stores. I was looking for some liquid hide glue, which isn't carried by most stores. I phoned a supplier in nearby Northampton Mass., and asked them if they stocked the product. While they didn't have any, the fellow on the phone suggested another hardware store in town, a place he described as "like an old-time hardware store, with lots of tools, even fancy Japanese tools". Well, I was intrigued - to think I might be able to obtain Japanese tools without having to order them by mail was a surprising thing to consider. huh!

I set off and half an hour later arrived at the store, which was a branch of the Ace Hardware chain. As I walked up to the front door, passing through a chain link fence which surrounded the store, my eye was caught by a sign in the glass front of the store: "FREE RIDE in a Police Car to anyone caught Shoplifting". Of course, the emphasis on the 'free ride' in large block letters is what catches the eye at first, and then to read the rest it is almost, well, humorous. Inside the store, one was greeted by sign after sign along the lines "Smile, You're on Camera", and the old standby, "Shoplifters prosecuted to the Fullest Extent of the Law". All the power tools on display, only a modest selection of the usual stuff, were of course gang tethered with a wire security cable. As I walked around the store, checking things out, seeing more and more signs similar to those already described, you know, I couldn't help but have a negative feeling. Obviously, the owner of the store had suffered, at some point in the past at least, some theft from his store, and that's terrible. It's perfectly reasonable to take steps to protect against that, however it seemed like he/she had perhaps gone a little overboard. Perhaps the overreaction was giving them a greater sense of safety, and perhaps their rate of merchandise 'shrinkage' as it is termed in the accounting profession, had declined, however I was left with a feeling of not being trusted as a customer, that i was under close surveillance, that any minute now some attack dog might pounce on me if I took too much interest in something, or similar. It wasn't that 'old time homey' sort of feeling I was hoping for in this store! When it came to Japanese tools, yes, they had some. Two, to be exact, both cheap, run of the mill saws. Kept in a locked glass display case, like they were something valuable. Hmm, I suspect most people wouldn't even have any idea what they were, like a lot of hand tools, if they saw them. The staff weren't hostile, but they weren't amicable either, and after I found the bottle of hide glue I needed, which I noticed was right at its expiration date, I quickly went to the cash register, gave my money to the bored looking staffer, and exited the store. I won't be going back.

The last 'good' hardware store I was in, where the staff were friendly and the selection was broad, quality was good or better, and any purchase came with a solid discount, well, that was in 1999, when I was last in Hokkaidō Japan. Boy, I miss that store sometimes! When I left Japan, I was so pleased with the kindness and excellent service I had received at that store that I made a gable barge board with gegyo, or hanging pendant, as a token of my appreciation, and presented it to the shopkeeper, Mr. Hayase and his family. Here's a photo from that time- they were really pleased and wanted a commemorative photo:

That's Hayase-san's wife on the left, and his mother on the right. So, I'm feeling a little wistful, a little natsukashii, as the Japanese say, for a good old Japanese hardware store. Everything in that store, pretty much, was made in Japan with a few European items. Even the mundane stuff, like the riveting pliers, or the casters, the baling wire, etc., were decent quality. This is just a small city hardware store - and many if not most hardware stores in Japan are, or were, very much like the Hayase's place. In Japan the prices for given items are fairly standardized right across the country, so the different stores compete by providing very good service, and strive to maintain long term relationship with their customers.

It seems to me that if you're a store selling widgets, of whatever kind, then all you have to compete upon are selection, price, and service. In most cases, it seems, the selection in the stores in this country at least is becoming ever more uniform, ever more of a monoculture. I mean, what's the difference really between what they have in Home Depot or Lowes? The stores are even laid out pretty similarly, play the same mindless Muzak - it's devolved down to pretty much a choice between orange or blue I guess. And the smaller chains, as they get squeezed out, can't compete on the selection or the prices with the big box stores, so all they are left with really is service.And I have observed in most cases they have poorer service than the big stores (which is, all the same, nothing to rave about). Tell you what, in 9 cases out of 10, if the service is excellent, and the store has or can get what I need, I will pay MORE to shop at that place. There are fewer and fewer stores like that though. Hida tools in Berkeley was one exception - friendly people and a decent, albeit specialized, selection. One of their competitors, located just miles away, Japan Woodworker, has such appalling service that I will never set foot in there again, and I did try several times, each time worse than the previous. No point flogging a dead horse as they say.

Anyway, on another front I have come across a few decent reads lately on architecture and building and plan to be doing a book review shortly. I read a lot too on history and politics however I tend to exclude that stuff from this arena.

I'm looking forward to the end of the rain and getting that Museum work wrapped up. Thanks for dropping by today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Battari Shōgi 18

This ought to be the second-to-last post in this series, and today I'll be showing mostly photos about finishing the piece after yesterday's adventure in gluing. Previous installments on the design and build of this battari shōgi, a fold-up bench associated to some Japanese merchant houses, can be found in the 'Blog Archive' to the right of the page.

After the piece was assembled and the glue had cured, it was time to trim the through-tenons. Some of the smaller ones, such are found at the frame corners, I trimmed off using a flush-cutting saw. For the wider through-tenons on the cross-pieces, I decided to preserve my handmade saw, as the Wenge is not what you might call friendly, and so I got out my Festool small router (OF1010) and used some carbide to waste the tenon ends (a cheaper proposition for sure in terms of wear and tear expense):

Here's how the tenons, well, one of them at least, looked after trimming with the router:

And after oiling and cleaning up, this is how the tenons look (fairly discrete I hope):

Then it was time for endless rounds of oiling, rubbing, a little wet/dry 400 grit sanding in oil here and there, and rub, rub, rub...:

Here's another perspective:

As always, trying to capture the surface quality of the material in really flat light is a photographic challenge for me, and one I largely fail at, but this image of the front edge of the bench gives an idea anyhow:

I think the through tenons are not at all obvious to view after finishing, which was the result I was looking for.

With the bench now laying in the 'normal' orientation, I was able to nail the top back in place, as it was originally. Of course, nailing in pine and nailing in Wenge are two entirely different propositions. I measured the thickness of the nails (0.0955") and then selected a 2mm (0.0765") brad point and got to work pre-drilling:

My brad point drill wasn't quite as long as the nails, so I used a pair of vice-grips to clip the nails a little shorter:

And then in they went, with no problems at all:

As it turned out, I am short a dozen nails, so the conclusion of that particular job will be tomorrow.

I'll finish with a few random shots from around the piece, to fill out my self-imposed post quota of 15 pictures. Here's one of the front corners:

One of the frame hinge pins at a rear corner, the being being made of Lignum Vitae:

I've been wanting to show the reader the delightful surface quality of the SYP infil boards after 30 years and thousands of people sitting on them - it's a highly textured surface and wonderful to touch:

Here's a view from the adjacent corner:

Another view of the underside of the bench:

One last image:

Looks like I have a little more rubbing to do on that corner! It's endless.

So, that's that for the construction of the bench. I plan to install it in the coming week- it will have to wait for a decent weather day, which apparently rules out this coming Monday.

In the meantime then, I think I can return to the land of French sawhorses for the next post or two. Thanks for dropping by today. --> Onward to post 19