the Carpentry Way: Gateway (VII)                                                          

Gateway (VII)

    
I've been spending most of the past week slicing and dicing up the remains of the old gate to see what I could reclaim of the hinoki. It's not much. There is one longish 4"x6" timber, but it has bolt holes every 2 feet, so it is of limited usefulness. Another couple of sticks might be reusable as battens for side panels or door panels, but the rest are short small pieces less than 30" in length. Such a waste!

Some more pictures to share of the devastation:


Main post foot well on its way to soil:


Support post foot:


Here's the top of one of the rear support posts, hikae-bashira:


All it needed was a copper cap. Instead, what it got was 25 seasons of expansion and contraction, baking by the sun, and wetting and drying. The strip glued into the opened kerf served to further trap moisture entering from the top. A post whcih could have been substantially reclaimed instead yielded 5%.

Another beauty:


Flanking post foot:


Main post foot:


The thing is, there is so little which is reclaimable and it didn't have to be that way. Sure, a kabukimon is a type of gate in which all the gate parts are exposed to the weather, so it takes much more of a beating than would a gate with a roof. But the design details, like the foundation consisting of metal shoes holding the posts down at ground level, made a big difference. And then there was the execution in terms of fabrication, and the choices presumably made by the carpenter which did the rest. Orienting beam kerfs up to the sky, combined with slipshod face-nailed copper flashing, and bolted threaded rod connections which promoted more rot, were examples of poor workmanship.

One construction detail that really irked me were the attachments of panels to battens:


At the time on site, I had pulled the decorative nails off of the front of the panel and yet could not get the panels apart from the battens behind. We ended up sawzall-ing the panels off. I figured the battens might be held to the back of the panels with sliding dovetails, as would be good (standard) practice, however once I had the panel out of the frame I could see no evidence of dovetails, so I was a little mystified.

Back at the shop, closer inspection revealed the 'ingenious' fixing method: Phillip's head screws:


So, they actually fastened the panels to the battens using these screws, then covered them over with decorative domed nails. I'm not overcome with admiration - anyone out there ever tried to remove corroded Phillip's head screws before? They are fasteners which were originally designed to strip out during automotive assembly line installation if they were torqued too high. Why these remain so commonly used when better options exist is beyond me. They suck.

With my Wera screwdrivers having a laser etched tip for extra grab, I did manage to extricate a few out of the less-corroded examples:


Unfortunately, it was only a few screws that were found to be cooperative, and I ended up having to chop the panel to bits. Recycled material from these side panels? That would be 0%. The main doors were also constructed similarly and I also obtained almost no reclaim from those parts either.

I have completed all the jointing, planing, cross-cutting and have maybe a dozen small pieces to return to the MFA. I also have one destroyed 15" sawblade and need a new set of knives for my planer. Those mishaps are what you can expect when working with reclaimed material.

It would be one thing if the poor workmanship and short-sighted design issues associated to an inexpensive gate, however they charged the same money for the work back in 1986 as I am charging today, and I certainly won't be taking the same shortcuts. Adjusting 1986 dollars for inflation to current time works out to more than double the amount I am to charge for the new gate. So, they overcharged and under built. I'm the biggest fan of Japanese carpentry out there, and it pains me to be faced with stuff like this.

Anyway, gate removal phase is now complete, and next up is foundation work, probably later this month. Stay tuned for more in this thread, and thanks for your visit today. On to post 8.