Saturday, July 31, 2010

On the rack

Several years ago I found this machine abandoned by the roadside with a few other odds and ends. Originally it had a kind of clamp base on it which was designed to grip the timber with pressure applied by a foot as one pushed the thing down with both hands. It cuts a slot in timber using four short chainsaw blades that are bonded together and run around a short stubby bar.For this project I completely removed all the clamp parts and screwed the base plate of the machine onto a scrap of 1" plywood wide enough to pass some pony clamps through to a corresponding piece underneath while still allowing the machine to straddle the largest timber I had on the rack.
Down at the end of the timber that has the machine clamped on you can see a short brownish batten standing fairly upright. That is screwed to the end of the timber with one edge along the pencil line that forms the vertical arm of the center line cross. I sight down to that aligning it with the depth gauge bar on the machine (perpendicular to the base plate) to ensure that the machine is oriented correctly on the timber. The flat area on the timber is very small, so it is possible to tilt the machine a little left or right using the pony clamps to align it.
One could use a spirit level on the base of the machine to perform the alignment, but there is a risk of the timber rolling out of alignment between cuts, so the batten is a better option here.
I have also made two marks on either end of the base plate that mark the point where the center line on the timber should be when the teeth of the chain are cutting the outside edge of the mortise. The chain is not wide enough to cut the width of the mortise in one go, hence the need for two lines, one for the left side and one for the right. I need to cut six times for each mortise and then chisel out a wall of timber left between the slots to complete the hole.
I have also made marks that indicate where the machine needs to be to cut the ends of the slots correctly.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


In the end I used a thin plywood sheet to check the joint for squareness at the final fit for the junction between these two timbers. The cross marks on the ends of some ot the timbers are visible and I have labeled two of the ink lines on this picture.
After marking the end of the pillar again I hammered this joint apart one more time and made a few more trimming cuts to adjust it and then put it back together one more time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I spent the morning out among the logs and just got to the point where I was able to offer up another tenon to its home mortise. Basically the bottom corner of the big log C shape from the viewpoint here standing up on the road above the yard area.
If you zoom in, you can get an idea of scale, there is a mortise hole in the beam lying under the back of the C, that hole is 150x45mm.
The whole procedure is a bit biblical, and I am working very close to the limits of what I can manhandle single handed without winches or anything. Need to keep the brains focused on the job at hand to avoid dropping something off of the rack.
So far it is proving doable within the space and I think I will be able to manage all the joint cutting in this way. Extending the rack to accommodate all the timber has meant that I get a good workout skipping up over it every time I need to go from one end of a piece to the other, like spending the day on the parallel bars.
The main point with big frames constructed with irregular timber is to provide oneself with reference lines on the timber, these lines represent the lines where planes through the timber push out through its surface. Usually planes through the centers or level planes. Each of the pillars has four longitudinal ink lines on it that correspond to planes crossing through the center. As long as the timber is stable on its rack you can use a spirit level and draw a cross of vertical and horizontal lines on each end that passes through the center, then snap an ink or chalk line between the tips of the crosses on the ends right along the timber. These lines allow me to make the marks to cut the vertical tenons and will later give me the centers for other mortises and tenons. The beams have lines along their "sides" that indicate a level plane through them, not usually on center and a vertical plane through the center. The level plane lines will allow me to use a big set square or three four five measurement to check the beams and pillars for squareness while they are lying on the rack and also cut the pillar bases to length when I have put in the four big rocks that they will stand on.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The day came around again when I do my bamboo bending volunteer job. Oddly this is a memorial to the north Koreans, South Koreans, Chinese and Japanese people who died or were killed during the construction work on the local dam from 1938-1947. On returning home I found that the north Koreans have been busy threatening us with nuclear deterrents. All of that is rather thrown into shadow by the torrential rain and dramatic lightning strikes pummeling the mountains around us, we have had thunder every evening for the past three days, so we were due for something to snap.
The two people here are a friend and his son, they did the bit in the middle and I had a few other people helping me out with the bendy bit at the back, they give an idea of the scale, they are nearly done with their bit and ready to tidy up the stage for the lighting engineers to move in.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


A few days of heightened activity in the summer heat. I noticed some more logs on one of the slopes we drive by to get to the main road and after a bit of telephone chasing I got permission to cart them off. Friday I stripped the ones I wanted of their bark so that they would slide better and pushed them down the slope to where I could reach them with the crane. Saturday morning I went to fetch the crane and then got my daughter to operate the controls while I attached slings and guided the logs hither and thither. I had to extend the work rack to hold the new additions and also added a tarpaulin roof to keep the worst of the sun off while I work on them. I think I have all I need for the major timbers and if I need any more I should be able to make do with the little truck to pick some up from the yard by the dam.
This picture is taken from up on the roof looking northwest toward the road. The log at the back is about 4200mm, so 13 foot six or so.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


A day of filling in as I sought permission to fetch more free timber from its mountain lair. I have been having trouble with the old weed whacker and decided to bite the bullet and buy a new one. The afternoon saw me making a mark in the jungle surrounding the home. As I sat finishing my tea in the early evening I heard the tell tale snorts of boar down in the river and went down the road to see if I could snap one. By the time I got in position one of the youngsters was heading back up toward our house in one of the areas I had stripped of taller undergrowth. I managed to get a snap of him as he traversed nomansland. Still has a hint of the stripes on his back from his younger days.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


The trip to the stockyard was something of an ordeal. We had torrential rain yesterday and that had softened up the ground, so despite my walking the course the truck got bogged down. We spent about an hour in the blazing sun trying to back out or go forwards, but lunch time found us only about six feet away from our original position. When we arrived a group of workmen were delivering equipment to cut down some trees down by the slipway from the dam. Seeing us stuck in the mud when they came up for lunch they offered to pull us out and we happily took them up on the offer. I in turn offered them a little tea money for their trouble, but they claimed it was all in the course of a day's work and were happy to help out fellow mountain folk.
We then went for lunch ourselves and came back with renewed vigor. The road way was about ten meters down a slope from the stack of logs, so I manhandled the logs over to the slope and we used the crane to lift them into the truck from there. The delivery at home was simple enough lowering each onto the temporary rack. There is one extra log stood up against the back wall, but these are the fruits of our labor the longer ones are just over 3 meters, so they should be fine for my pillars and whatnot once they have been stripped of their bark and trimmed up a bit for jointing. The one in front is on its way. The temporary rack is doing OK, but it could do with a few more diagonal braces next time the rain stops.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


My next project is to construct a roof for a wood carving made several years ago. This is showing signs of exposure, so a timely reprieve from the rigors of nature. My original plan was only to put a roof over the piece but now I have decided to make it more of a traditional gate that marks the path up to the "waterfalls" that are the foundation for the legend the sculpture loosely depicts. The sketch onto a printout gives an idea of where my thoughts are going. The structure below will support some cypress logs I hope to acquire tomorrow. They still have their bark on, so they will need a lot of work to get them in shape to form the pillars of the gate. I should be able to roll them over each other on this structure and joint them up here as well. I aim to keep them fairly natural, but I may shape the bases a little. They don't yet know what they are in for, happily sleeping out in the torrential rain at the dam yard for driftwood gradually decaying into the earth, little did they know that the casual visitor of yesterday would be back to pull them out of the carbon cycle for some years and put them to work. Hope all goes well with their retrieval tomorrow.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Shavers of spokes

The new old spokester is on the left. The one I bought new several years ago is on the right. I thought the two would be similar and I could give away the recent acquisition, but on trying the thing out after a major honing session it proves to have such different characteristics that I must hold on to it. I am very tempted to try building a few of my own to get into the areas neither can reach. Today's project was the seat for the stool. I cannibalized a horrible office chair for the pneumatic riser and made the new wheeled legs ages ago as a diversion from those welded door windows. The stool is a useful height for working at the rather high counters and workbench.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Simple squiff

Looking around for unfinished stuff the past couple of days, yesterday I came across a roughed out tray that was started as a retirement gift for one of the teachers who played a part in the primary school education of my kids. 35x61x5cm in size, I finished off hollowing out the shape and decorating the edges with squiffy bits. I found the spokeshave I bought in a second hand tool place in clifton very useful. More on him tomorrow.