Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What’s the status on the studio building?

“I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.” - William Coperthwaite

So, if you remember, the sitework (driveway, parking area, pad) was completed in fall and left in that state until the spring thaw. Not that nothing was being worked on this winter… I have been rolling around ideas and exploring new opportunities for building. The result of the winter’s contemplation is that I have decided to build the studio as a timber frame from trees on my property.

There is somewhat of a local legend about the eccentric character that owned our property for many years before us. Among the many things he has come to be known for covering his acreage with red pines is one of the most oft repeated. Today, these trees’ usability have peaked and they will begin dying off in a few years: Now is a perfect time for the harvesting. What better way is there to honor the memory of the former steward of our land than build a workshop from his trees?

The past month or so I have been working and re-working designs for the frame. I have met with a couple of local timber framers (Jon Ellsworth and Jim Bannon ( to discuss and review my plans making sure I have not overlooked anything. Since I am new at timber framing, I want to make sure that I do this smart. I am sure I could cobble something together that could last my lifetime with any old method of construction but I figure I might as well engineer it well so that it could last 200+ years like all the old frames still standing around my neighborhood. Maybe then my children’s children’s children will have something to inherit.

We plan to harvest and mill the timbers a little over a week from now. I will have my brother in law and friends help again like before. Kyle, the one with access to the bandsaw mill, has already brought back the boards from the fall’s cutting and they look great. When he comes down this next time he will be bringing 1,500 bd/ft more pine for walls, floors, sheathing, etc. Because I plan to build the shop without any plywood, I'm gonna need a lot of board feet of this stuff.

What’s timber framing?

Timber Framing (or Post and Beam) is a building method from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Rather than using the conventional method of nominal 2” lumber butt jointed and nailed, this method involves large (6” x 6” – 8” x 8”) wooden beams joined together with mortise and tenons, dovetails, or lap joints all pegged with wooden pegs. (Visualize the inside of an old barn). These are the buildings that have survived in the UK since the 16th century when they were erected.

How long will this take me, you ask? Good question. Since I have a full schedule, I want to do this over time. Our summers involve gardening for the year’s food supply, running a furniture restoration business, and other various property improvements that also must be attended to. All that considered, my goal is to have a traditional frame raising at the end of October. This should give me about 6 months to cut the joinery.

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Thomas Jefferson

So what’s going on now?

So right now I am tweaking the plans, assembling the cut list, buying and (refurbishing) the tools needed. Providentially, a friend of my wife’s is tearing down a house on their property and has offered some materials to be reused for my studio. I have collected 8 or 9 square of R-30 Fiberglass insulation, 10 excellent shape double pane sash windows, and two wooden doors (one 36” and the other 30”). This will greatly help the process along. (Thank you very much Douglas and Tammy!)

Until this past fall, my adult life had been transitory. School, job changes, and pregnancy have sent us around the country from one rental place to another. It was not until this past fall that we actually had a place to call our own. My former mentality had been to do projects cheap and simple because we weren’t going to be here that long. It finally dawned on me a couple months ago: this ‘cheap and dirty’ mentality is not going to cut it anymore. We are finally here on our own property. We are putting roots down for a lifetime of living. Because I am not yet even thirty years old, I need to be planning for long term solutions. Any building I put up I want to be confident I can get at least 75 years out of it… and 200 would be even better.

A Brief Postscript...

Our greenhouse which has supplied us unfailingly all winter with fresh greens just exploded with leafy foliage. Julia has been hard at work planting seeds: Onions, radishes, leeks, celery, various peppers, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, mesculen, spinach, thyme, sage, parsley, and oregano are welcome additions to our chard and kale wintered over from last year’s garden. I think this girl is addicted.

Monday, April 15, 2013

From the Homestead: Handmade Clothesline Pulleys

Spring is here and first on Julia’s honey-do list for me was to setup a clothesline. Eden and I set about to find a fitting piece of leftover firewood from the stack…

First to rive the stock with the froe...

He loves working with Papa.

Roughly round it out with a hatchet

Finish the rough rounding with the drawknife on my shaving horse

Now for the lathe

I am turning two pulleys out of a single piece

Don't forget the wheels!

Stained and oiled

I think my wife is happy.

If she's happy, I'm happy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Queen Anne Walnut Candlestand Complete

Finished the candlestand. Oil-based pigmented stain, Timber Mate partial pore fill, orange waxy flattened shellac. Rubbed out with Liberon #0000 steel wool and Mohawk Bristol Cream Polish.

I am happy with the results but, because this project began on a whim, coordinating it with our bed didn't cross my mind. Needless to say this elegant high style piece looks ridiculous next to our homely rope bed. (I'm using it as a bedside table.) Oh well. Guess we'll have to build a pencil post one of these days...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Candlestand: Assembled and "In the White"

After a few passes with a smoothing plane, I finished up the top surface with a cabinet scraper.

Laid out the top

Marking gauge to the proper thickness of the top.

Beginning to thickness with a scrub plane: First down to the marking gauge line on all four sides and then across grain in the middle.

Finished up the underside with a finely set jack plane.

Bandsawn top

Cleaned up edges with spokeshave followed by sandpaper.

Legs sanded and waiting glue-up.

Finally the glue!

Fitting the battens to the underside of the top.

Pivoting action. Walnut pin to keep the top locked into place.

Carving at the base of the pedestal. (You're looking at it upside down)

Finished and "in the white". Now it's time for color, grain fill, and shellac!