the Carpentry Way: Gateway (XVI)                                                          

Gateway (XVI)

Post 16 in a series describing the design and construction of a kabukimon for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.


Back to the place where the wood is getting dried - Lashway USA - located in Williamsburg MA. The Port Orford cedar for this project has been sitting in the dehumidification room for a couple of months since the the last time I accessed material, about 4 months altogether now I guess. It turns out that the previous time I stopped by, where I was led to believe that much of the material was dry was a false alarm caused by a mechanical problem in the pins of the moisture meter. The wood I took away last time had to be returned for more time in the dehumidifier. Good training for my back I guess.

As the weeks click on by I get to thinking about the wood sitting there in 90˚F, day in and day out and start to fear the worst. When I got the call that some of the material was down in the desired 12%M.C. zone I become both excited and apprehensive. What if all the wood has cracked and looks like shit? You can make all the best possible decisions, but in the end there are unknowns with drying wood and sometimes things do go south. Solid wood is not a predictable material and that is, strangely enough, one of the things I love about it.

Shortly after starting this series a reader from California contacted me to say he had been involved with a gate-building project with "a carpenter of note" and that the Port Orford Cedar was so badly cracked from the drying process that they chose to epoxy up the cracks. I guess the wood didn't look to good. He advised me to be careful about drying and would not share who the 'notable' carpenter was.

While I think I am taking every precaution in this process, there always remains a certain apprehension that things could go south at any moment with the wood drying. Lashway dries million dollar loads of ebony of Martin guitars, and I said to Larry Lashway that for me, this pile of Port Orford Cedar is like a million dollar load of wood.

Fingers crossed, I arrived at the site today to check things out and was greatly relieved to find the wood in excellent condition:

Drying by any method is often a bit of an uneven process. Even with wax on the ends, wood tends to dry more quickly at the ends than in the middle, and with larger pieces the degree of dryness is an estimate anyhow as the moisture meter pins can only penetrate 1.25" into the material. I was able to take away a bunch of material that was dry however, as evinced by the above photograph.

The remainder of the material seems to be showing minimal degrade and is getting into the 15% zone, so it won't be long now, at least for most of the material. The larger beams will probably be in the dehumidifier for another couple-to-three months at least. I'm guessing that the 6" ~7" thick stock can come out in another 3 weeks or so. We'll see - they check the M.C. every couple of days and we're on the homeward track here it would appear.

In the picture below, you can see most of the pieces, the 1" thick stuff belonging to someone else:

The stress relief kerfs in the bigger timbers have been doing their job, and that is without the use of additional wedging to forge the cracks wider apart. The large timbers are not completely devoid of checking, but what has arisen is fairly minimal. Certainly the wood in the old gate, brought over from Japan, was worse in this department.

Getting the load strapped down to drag it back to my shop, which is not too far down the road:

Stacked and stickered:

The wide panels seen at the right, pulled from the kiln about 6 weeks ago, have already been jointed and dimensioned. They are to become the door and flanking section panels. The original used 4 panels per section, while I'm going to do each section with just two wide boards. The other stock you see (just stacked and stickered) is for the doors and flanking section components.

Another view:

Whew! That's what I say. And damn! I like it when things are going well! Out of this pile, I have only 2 sticks so far I have had to reject due to excessive movement, so I'm most pleased about that. A pile of butter awaits my handplane down the road a piece.

All for now - thanks for dropping by and taking a look. Comments always highly appreciated. Up next, a few months down the line is Post 17