Tuesday, September 12, 2017

BCM 2017: On a New Track (5)

Last post in a series describing some repair work on 4 sliding paneled doors, or ita-do, and related sliding track, for the Boston Children's Museum.


Today was install day, and that meant a 2 hour commute to Boston, one of the least drivable cities on the planet in my experience (not that I have driven in every city on the planet!). I allowed extra time this morning for the drive, which was fortunate, because one of the routes close in to the city resembled a parking lot for a good stretch of time. When I got to the museum, the parking lot I normally access was being dug up by the City of Boston, and after some fruitless searching at two other parking lots, one full and the other too low to enter, I ended up parking about a mile (1.6km) from the Museum. All in all, that put me about 50 minutes behind schedule from the start.

Fortunately, all the steps went smoothly. The first part of the work, and the part which i thought contained the greatest potential for time-sink, was the removal of the old track. I guessed that it was probably going to be extensively nailed from the backside, which was unaccessible without dismantling a lot of things, so my strategy was to sacrifice a carbide saw blade and rip cut the entire track, snipping as many of the nails as I could in the process. This approach proved to work very well - here, I've finished the cutting and with the aid of a long pry bar I'm starting to pull one half of the track away from the rest of the framing:

The other side came out without much more in the way of complaint:

With the track removed, I pulled any remaining exposed fasteners, or trimmed them off flush with my angle grinder and cut-off wheel, and that left me a clean deck to work with:

The track was relatively trouble-free to fit, requiring only a small amount of scribe fitting to the left post, which was twisted slightly out of position:

In the west, the drawing techniques for fitting a sill between irregularly rotated posts is termed 'tumbling', while the Japanese cluster it in generally with scribing, or hikari-kata. It's a useful technique to have in one's bag of tricks.

Once the track was secured in place, I commenced working on putting the doors. I had left the stiles a few mm long in case significant adjustments were required, and it wasn't too long before the first couple of doors were in place:

A short while later, all 4 doors were in:

I had forgotten to bring any wax, however the Museum happened to have a bar of Japanese sliding door track wax, so I applied a little bit to the track's mizo, and that made for a nice feel in the sliding motion. Here's a look with one of the doors open, though the doors will normally be closed as the 2nd floor is not open to the general public:

The Museum was very pleased with the work.

The process went very smoothly, and took me only a little over 2 hours to complete, including removal of the old track. Then more driving awaited on the commute home, but at least I was ahead of rush hour. That's it for this short series on BCM work for 2017- thanks for tuning in.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

BCM 2017: On a New Track (4)

Post 4 in a series describing some repair work on 4 sliding paneled doors, or ita-do, and related sliding track, for the Boston Children's Museum.


After the frame members were through joinery and finish planed, the stiles received a coat of stain so as to match the rest of the doors:

Rails next, after a coat of stain, which is still wet in the photo below:

The panels and battens had received a lot of wear and tear, exposing raw wood in a number of places, so the four entire panels were given a refresh with stain:

As noted in a previous post, removal of the old frames revealed several broken batten tenons. One of those battens had tenons snapped off of both ends, so I removed the batten from the panel, and placed it in a fixture so I could rout a short mortise for an insert tenon:

Here I'm doing a dry fit of the panel and batten assembly to the two newly made stiles:

The bare patch you can see in the above photo is where the removed batten locates, left off for the trial fit as I know it will fit the mortises just fine.

Everything was fitting up nicely, so I knocking things apart one more time, put the batten back into place, and then glued up using 'Old Brown' hide glue:

Though for many circumstances a 72" rip capacity on a table saw is of limited use, it happens to be an ideal surface for placing a clamped up assembly of about that length :^)

On other panel assemblies, only one batten tenon was broken, so instead of removing the batten to effect a repair, I worked on the joinery in situ using a simple set up like this:

You can spot the just-completed batten mortise in the middle:

At the end of a Sunday, I had three of the four doors glued up, and two of those doors were into a second application of stain. Tomorrow should be the last shop day on this project, and Tuesday is the planned day of install at the BCM. Hope you'll stay tuned for the next installment, and thanks for your visit today! Post 5 is next.

Friday, September 8, 2017

BCM 2017: On a New Track (3)

Post 3 in a short series describing the repair/replacement of 4 sliding doors and a section of lower door track, or shiki-i, for the Boston Children's Museum.


Here are the 8 rails after tenons are trimmed and chamfered:

The stiles have also been mortised - here's a shot of the lower mortises:

The upper mortises feature differential tenon sizes due to the larger/deeper tongue on the top of the rail:

Let's have a look at a fit between upper rail and a stile:


Together and the faces meet cleanly:

A first frame is trial-fitted together:

At this stage, while the fit on the front faces looks fine...

...in actuality the shoulders of the tenon are not fully in contact with the face of the stile:

This is by design, as the chamfers themselves remain a bit short of their final width.

The chamfers were processed on my router table, and a router cut is always going to have scallop marks. Trying to remove such marks by sanding a small chamfer like that, in such a soft wood, is a terrible idea. It seems to me - maybe this sounds crazy -but sand paper and soft woods should generally not meet one another, especially in a wood so easily and pleasantly worked as Port Orford Cedar.

Chamfer size Adjustment? That's where the kikai mentori-ganna comes in:

After an initial pass where a thicker shaving was taken, I reduce the depth of cut for final passes:

Now the fit between the parts was more like what I was after:

All for this round- getting close to the finish line now. Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. Post 4 in this series is next.

Some Pointed Remarks

I use Japanese saws exclusively, save for a lone coping saw which sees infrequent use. Some of the saws use replaceable blades, and they work well, while the remainder are traditional saws which can be resharpened. While I have saw files and can, and do, touch up dull teeth from time to time, I generally prefer to send dull saws out to a specialist, who can resharpen, set wayward teeth, and, most critically, perform metate on the blade body to bring the saw blade into perfect alignment and tension.

I gathered a bunch of saws together last year, along with a couple which a friend in Germany had sent to me, and got them together with a box to send to Japan. But then, well, life got in the way, with a newborn, and my shop time occupied with completing two large cabinets, and I did not get around to shipping the saws off until a few months back.

Today I received them back, to my considerable relief. Several of my saws were made by a deceased National Treasure saw smith, and were irreplaceable items, so trusting them to the whims of international shipping and customs was a risk.

They arrived in fine shape, and in a new wooden box:

i had shipped them in a smaller wooden box, however three of the blades I had sent were in fact NOS, and just needed new handles of the correct size fitted. These new handles couldn't fit in the old box, so the agent I used prepared a new box, and he did a very nice job. This is the sort of customer service which is the norm in Japan, and which I have become decidedly unused to since I left that country some 18 years ago.

With the lid peeled up, I was greeted by the sight of the new handles, each numbered to the corresponding saw blade:

The tray with the handles (and one saw blade) on it was pulled out, to reveal the next layer:

And then that layer came out to reveal the next:

The bottom layer had saws affixed to both sizes. Below it was my old box.

After removing the two saws owned by my German Friend, which I shall ship on to him next week, I spent a while tapping the saw handles back on to the blades and hanging them back on the wall. It's so nice to have a bevy sharp hand saws in my possession once again.

Thought it would be fun to share my later summer 'Christmas' present with you all out there. Thanks for dropping by on your journey today.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

BCM 2017: On a New Track (2)

Before we get to today's post, I wanted to make a brief note about comments on this blog. All comments are moderated, and normally, when someone posts a comment, I receive an email notification, and from there I can post it, delete it, or mark it as spam. If a comment has the name of the commenter appended, and is not spam (not that one ever receives spam from people using their real name), I post it. If the comment does not have the commenter's name appended, no matter how wonderful a comment it might be, I delete it. Then, there are spam comments, which are marked as such and flushed down the virtual toilet where they belong.

Recently I noticed some comments from posts 97 and 98 in the 'Ming-Inspired Cabinet' series, and for some reason I never received direct notification of these comments, but found that the comments (later?) appeared in the comment management section of my blogs control panel. This I discovered by happenstance weeks afterwards. I've no idea why that happened, but as soon as I came across those comments, I posted them.

I almost always respond to comments, even if to only say 'thank you', however once in a while I publish a comment and then I get distracted with something and the comment, so to speak, slips through the cracks. Indeed, I have come across posts from years back where people had commented and I did not make any reply. When I find that, I will immediately make a reply, however in some cases years have passed and I doubt the person to whom I am replying ever sees that I did make an answer. For circumstances such as that I am deeply regretful. I know that for some folks, receiving no response after the trouble they took took to post a comment can be a bit of a turn off.

So, please know, that if by any chance you posted a comment at some point in the past, saw that it was posted, and I made no response, it was entirely an accident. It doesn't mean I am snubbing you or have nothing to say or am not grateful in some way. Sometimes when you are juggling a few things a ball gets dropped, that is all.

And if you made a comment and it was not posted, it is almost certainly because you did not put your name to it. I do not like internet anonymity, and that is why I ask people to say who they are, regardless of whether they have something good to say or otherwise.


Back to the current wok on the track and sliding doors for the middle room of the Machiya located in the Boston Children's museum (BCM). Last time, I had re-sawn, jointed and planed stock for the stiles, rails, and shiki-i (sliding track), all a few millimeters over dimension. The next shop session I checked the pieces to see if they were still straight, re-jointed as necessary, and planed the parts to about 0.3mm over finish dimension. Then the parts were super-surfaced to exact size. Then the stiles and rails were dadoed for the panels:

Also, at this stage, lines were marked indicating rail junctions and mortise locations for the panel battens:

The shiki-i, which I chose to make out of Honduran Mahogany, was similarly planed to dimension and then super-surfaced to exact size. Then a coat of water-based stain was applied:

Though the stain is water-based, the cleanly sliced cells of the wood from surfacing mean that the grain is not raised.

A day later, after some careful calibration, I used my groover to cut the dadoes in the track for the doors:

David Pye's notion of 'workmanship of risk' was clear to me again, anytime I use the groover - the tool must be perfectly guided as any slight deviation or pressure can result in a spoiled cut in a blink of an eye. Fortunately, all went well, and here I'm wrapping up the second pass:

Later, the piece received more stain, and is still wet in the following photo:

One coat is in fact sufficient, however I find a second coat gives a very slightly more even appearance.

The rails connect to the stiles by way of twin tenons and have a mitered return on the front face. here I'm rough-cutting the tenons:


A while later all eight rail tenons sets were rough cut:

I'll pare the shoulders with a guide block next time, and trim the tenons the the required height.

The stiles were then mortised for their battens:

Another round in the shop should see me through the remainder of the joinery work. Stay tuned for more and thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. Post 3 in this series is next.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

BCM 2017: On a New Track

This year's repair work at the Kyo no Machiya, located inside the Boston Children's Museum, is to replace the sliding door track, or shiki-i, and the frames of four paneled doors, ita-do. The track was worn to the point where the dadoes for the sliding doors were all but indistinct, and the doors themselves had worn their lower stiles to the point where there were no longer tongues with which to engage the sliding track. The doors, effectively reduced in height and sitting in an opening with a larger than original height, were perilously close to falling out of their openings entirely.

My first visit was to come and collect the doors and take a look at how easily removable the shiki-i might be. Unfortunately, I found that the lower sliding track was not going to be easy to remove. By design, they should be, however in this case the floor framing of the closet space in behind the track had been nailed to the track with some fairly large spikes. The floor of the closet, 10mm plywood, was also trapped by the 3mm plywood covering the walls of the closet. Taking the floor of the closet out to get at the framing would open up a large kettle of fish, and mean the stairs also would have to come out, so I will instead elect to chop the track out in sections.

Here's the track in question:

The sliding doors in this area are normally kept shut as they provide access to the second floor of the house, and that is an area not open to the public. A tea ceremony group uses the upstairs space on an intermittent basis.

Back at the ranch, I got to work removing the ita-do frames. Upon inspection, I discovered that one stile on each door had been replaced at some point in the past - likely at the time when the building was installed at the BCM, and the new stiles did not show through tenons from the door battens, as the old ones did. The lower rails were also non-original. A bit more investigation revealed the unpleasant fact that the new stiles had been affixed with an aliphatic (yellow) glue, and thus the joinery could not be knocked apart. Therefore, I had no option but to cut the doors apart, taking care to preserve whatever was left of the tenons on the door battens.

My first pass by the post was to rip the stile on the table saw:

These rip cuts revealed the ends of the mortises in the stiles:

I then cross cut the door rails, removing 2/3:

Then, at each joint location, I sawed around the connection thusly:

A few chisel blows removed waste:

This was not a quick and easy process by any means - it felt a bit like an archaeological dig:

The old stiles could be more or less knocked off their connections, however I decided to kerf around some of the joints just to minimize stress on the small batten tenons when the rails was knocked off:

The old stiles came off in one piece:

The new stiles came off in 30 or 40 pieces each. Amazing what the consequences of glue choice can be, huh? Easy repairability, as it traditional with the use of weak adhesives made from rice paste or similar, or stuff that has to be chopped to bits, when modern adhesives are employed. Sometimes it is great to have adhesives that are stronger than the wood itself and people do like to boast about stuff like that - but it's not such a fine thing if repair of those assemblies is envisioned in the future. Modern high-strength adhesives do pair well with today's throw-away culture.

Once I had the stiles off and had chiseled off most of the old glue from the tenons, I took a measure of some of the battens, shoulder to shoulder:

The numbers were not exactly the same from batten to batten, varying by 0.4mm or so, but this number is representative:

When at site I had measured the post interval, inside face to inside face, so having the batten length dimension (i.e., same as the measure between inside faces of the stiles) in hand now allowed me to calculate the correct door widths and stile widths. Once that was done I discovered that the old door stiles had been undersized, at 36mm width, when they should actually have been 38mm. Possibly the stiles may originally have been 38mm wide, and had been modified over time to fit posts when had shifted out of plumb as the building settled over time. I'm just guessing though.

Unfortunately, whoever fitted the replacement stiles in the past had not taken the time to calculate the correct size needed and had simply duplicated the old stile size, so the old doors ended up being too narrow by some 4mm each. Since their fit was so poor in the wall opening due to excessive wear, the issue with incorrect overlap was not, of course, presenting itself too overtly.

I discovered that when the door had been worked on previously to fit the new stiles, they had broken off a few tenons and had redone the connections with a nail:

Not the best way to do things obviously, but I do not know the circumstances of the past repair so I will hold off commenting further.

At last, all four batten and panel assemblies were free of their frames:

I have three batten tenons broken or missing, and will have to either fit inserted tenons or fabricate at least one new batten. I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Time to make some new frames, which I decided to make from old growth Port Orford Cedar. Step one was to crosscut the material to length, and then on to jointing:

And then planing:

Then resawing:

And more jointing and planing after that.

Nearly there:

One of the pieces I started with proved to have some internal stresses which rendered the re-sawn sticks anything but straight, so I had to cut up another piece. At the end of the day I have all my stock prepared a couple of millimetres oversize for section width and height. I'll let it sit over the weekend and take the material down to size next time I'm in the shop.

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. There has been a bit of a hiatus in posting, and I appreciate those readers who have reached out by email to check in on me. Will endeavor to get back to regular posting, and yes, still working on some videos of other projects....

Next post.