Friday, 27 January 2012

No one here but us......


Wonderful furry little marsupial friends, big brown eyes and curly little tails.

Fun to watch as they wander through the tree tops, eating seeds and young tree shoots.

Not so fun when your balancing up a ladder, jemmy bar in one hand and claw hammer in the other, pulling off the last cement sheet from the skillion roof in your house and one appears four inches from your face!

I'd like to say that as the sheet dropped and Mr.Possum presented himself at eye level, close enough to breath on me, that I calmly said "hello" and continued on my way.

More accurately, I dropped both hammer and bar stumbled backward off the ladder and onto the floor, muttering expletives under my breath and wondering what the hell was glaring back at me.

Of course my brush tailed buddy was completely uninterested about the whole episode  and calmly sat there while I took a photo for my boy Tom. I left a lump of stud leaning against the wall up into the ceiling for him and this morning he was gone.

What wasn't gone though were the big posts that I had to man handle into position today. All three ended  up cut to length and sitting in place ready for measuring the beams in between. I even managed to cut the tenons on the 1st beam in what will be the opening to the kitchen. I've got to say at 100mm long and 50mm ( 4 " x 2" ) thick it's by far the biggest tenon I've ever cut. But then again, this ain't no Shaker hall table.

Best part though was finally getting to use my 3" slick that I bought from Patrick Leach in Massachusetts  while I was there late last year. I've turned a Gidgee handle for it and it's a joy to use.

Here it is next to my little No.3 Stanley, which it dwarfs. I have re-thought my timing on getting this whole thing together, especially when cutting all mortises and tenons by hand. Sometimes it's better to take your time ( or admit your slow at it ! ) and savour these enjoyable parts of a build, rather than force yourself to follow a timeline and rush things and that's just what I'm doing. ....and loving it.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

So how do I get that, in there?

So here is the latest photo of the inside of the back of the little cottage. As you can see I've sort of just kept taking the studs out that don't look like an open plan dining room and kitchen! Ok, I've put a little more thought into it than that. But that's certainly what it felt like today.

From where I've taken this photo, facing the Northern side of the house, there used to be two walls directly in front of me. The bathroom and laundry walls. These were a combination of add hock half studs, no noggins and patch work from who knows how far back.

Added to this, the wall between the laundry and bathroom was so full of holes from the old galvanised water pipes, new copper pipes and two generations of electrical wiring that it was amazing that it was still standing. A new hardwood one will go back in it's place, extending the bathroom in size and incorporating the laundry in the process. The old laundry, half of which will now be bathroom will give up the rest of its area to a nice little compact kitchen, tucked into an alcove of sorts.

This morning I screwed the top parts of the studs in the old kitchen wall to a hanger at the top end of the skillion roof you can see on the left. The bottoms of the studs were then cut away, after I had propped up that hanger with a couple of steel Acro-props. I love these things. You can literally prop up all manner of structural parts of your house with them while you build. Great.

You can then see the two large macrocarpa posts, on the right and far centre, that I have propped up in readiness for marking out and cutting of mortises tomorrow. Where the closest Acro-prop can be seen, another similar sized post will be installed. Two large 100 x 200mm laminated macrocarpa beams will be mortise, tenoned and pegged into place between all three posts.

Difference between this solid timber frame and one where the building is being stood up, such as a barn raising, is that I have a right angled frame which is mortised and tenoned together with angled support struts also mortised and tenoned between post and beam. Now while that is nothing new, the issue is how to get that whole structure together into that right angled void, which has top plates above it on both sides and also an external wall on one side and an internal wall on another. It cant be stood up individually as the walls wont allow the mortises to be fitted in situ and the skillion roof stops it in the other direction. If that makes sense?

So I've come to the conclusion that the whole thing will need to be cut, fitted and assembled in the room nearby by me and 'walked' into place with a combination of brute force and a delicate touch. I hope I can muster both on the day it goes in. Which at this point is 7.00AM Saturday morning. That's when I have a bloke coming around to help me do just that.

I've even sharpened up my new ( very old ) 3" framing slick and turned a new handle for it too. Looking forward to using it in earnest tomorrow. Off to bed to get some rest before the mortising begins in the morning!

A Fine Finish.

Time to take a breath again after the final Peter Galbert Chair course where 13 guys came and made a Fan Back side chair. All of the chairs came up really well and the final result was a credit to everyones hard work. Doing a chair class with Peter is not just a class in making a single chair. He shares techniques and information generously and essentially teaches participants how to make 'any' windsor chair, such is his comprehensive coverage of the subject.

Here's Pete taking the guys through the beginning of shaping their crest rails.

It was also great to see so many previous students of ours coming back to make another chair with us. Some are on their 3 and 4th chair! Above is Carl Karacsay's fiddle back Blackwood chair with fiddle back Satin Box spindles. It's spectacular and a reflection of Carl's great workmanship and skill. Carl and I actually took Peter out into the Otways to harvest Blackwood and Satin Box while he was here......but that's a whole other entry!

And here is a collection of the chairs from the Fan Back class, plus my Yellow Bird Cage chair in the back ground, a Continuous Arm Rocker in Pitch Black and Barn Red from the pre Xmas class and a Perch that Pete made out of Fijian Mahogany. If you'd like to see all the smiling faces of the guys who made them, have a look a Peter's latest blog entry here -

So you may remember from my last post that I'd got the Bird Cage together but had some final detailing to finish the chair, like carving the false Birds Mouth mitred corners. So a few days before the Fan Back class Pete took us through how to carve them. And as silly as it might sound, you pretty much just carve away all the wood that doesn't look like a birds mouth! So with a flurry of drawknives, carving chisels and even a patternmaker's rasp or two, the mitres revealed themselves from the lump of wood that was once there. Above you can see one almost finished.

So with the joinery completed, crunch time had arrived. Usually, with impish grin, Pete had been working on me for weeks to paint my chair with milk paint as opposed to oiling it. What Pete may not have known was that I've actually painted most of my chairs, with the exception of a Huon Pine and Black Heart Sassafras Continuous Arm I made, but I admit there was a part of me that was having issues with painting that one piece Elm seat.

But when someone like Pete offers to walk you through one of his exceptional paint finishes, you don't pass up the opportunity! As you probably already know, there is more info on Pete's blog about paint finishes than you could poke a very large stick at, but here's the process in brief in case you haven't seen it.

So first, after sanding, scraping and re-sanding the seat top and tops of the arm holds, the first base coat of Mustard Milk Paint went on. This was a very thin coat, being careful not to go over any previously painted areas, as the paint dries so fast that the wet coat will delaminate the not-quite dry coat and lift both off the surface. The paint is not applied with the brush as evenly as say you might with an enamel paint, but more in a hashed manner, being careful to work to the live edge.

The next day the seat and arm hold tops were sanded back again and a second thin coat of Mustard was applied in the same manner. This was left overnight too.

From memory, Pete gave me the recipe for the colour he painted his Spring Love Seat. See the opening page of his website, which I have admired for years.

So now the mustard was put away and the Marigold Yellow chosen instead. This was mixed on a 12:1 ratio with Lexington Green and equal parts water. Use warm water ( not hot ) and strain the mixture carefully. I used pantyhose ( yes the 16 yr old shop assistant did look at me sideways when I bought them ) as I didn't have a paint filter and it worked fine. Again the paint is applied in thin coats, working to the live/wet paint edge. Keep the left over in the fridge to extend it's lifespan.

So here is the chair with it's first coat of 'Spring Yellow' ( a name which I have just made up! ). A second coat went on the next day. A good rule of thumb when painting chairs ( thanks Pete ) is "if your not looking at it your not painting it." It is amazing just how much you can miss on round parts which are in difficult places, so make sure you check to see that everything is covered evenly. A total of two top coats were applied in the Spring Yellow.

The whole chair was then burnished with 0000 steel wool. You can also apparently use 3M pads. See Pete's blog for more detail on this. But steel wool was all I had, so steel wool it was. The chair all of a sudden took on a completely different look. The crisp detail of the concave curves at the back of the arm holds sprung into life. The curves of the seat took shape against the sharp line of the spindle deck and above all else the chisel cut facets of the false mitres shone. Yes.... I did get a little excited. This burnishing can be taken as far as you please, to the point where you can cut through the paint and start to reveal the beautiful grain and colour of the timber underneath. Then a thorough clean with micro-fibre cloth to remove the paint and wool residue.

 Then the fun stuff began. A fresh batch of straight Marigold Yellow was made and applied into the 'joints or nodes' of the bamboo turnings. This truly accentuates the detail of the chair and shows that the chair is not just yellow. Then on to the Danish Oil. Applied in the usual manner. You can use all manner of oil finishes, shellac or whatever your preference may be.
And here's the result after one coat....

Sorry about the poor resolution. I was so impressed after the first coat of oil, I just whipped out the iphone and snapped a pic. There's two or more coats of oil to go. I'll take a full size photo of the finished article, not under the terrible light that fluorescent lights produce and which don't do justice to the true colour of the chair. But all in all a fine finish to a beautiful Galbert chair design. Hope you like it.

Now it's back to the cottage. I've given myself a deadline to get us in and settled. It's a bare frame at present so there's some work to do!