Friday, June 19, 2009

Busy week at work

This week at work we have been erecting one of the houses we cut this winter. Working on site like this generally means long hours and exhausting work in the hot sun. Unfortunately I havn't had much energy left when I get home to work on my project. I did start cutting the first sticks though! The sills are now well on their way to being finished.

On the first day of cutting I learned that it takes an average of 58 strides to navigate from my work area to the fuse box in the basement. In the frenzy of putting together the stick list for the sawer, I mistakenly ordered 8"x8" stock instead of 6"x8" for the sills. 
I was just going to use the 8x8, but I changed my mind and decided that I would re-saw them myself. I want to reduce the weight and height of the house as much as possible, even if it is only two inches of wood. 
I borrowed one of the 13" circular saws from work to make the cut- "the good one" I was told. Like most of the tools in the shop, it looks like it took a tumble off a roof at some point in its long hard life. On this particular saw, one corner of the base is folded almost entirely back on itself and the blade leaves a lot to be desired.
The 13" saw can only cut to a depth of about 5", so in order to rip two inches off the 8x8s I had to make a cut from each side of the timber.
If the timber is square and the saw is true, the cuts meet in the middle. This is not an easy cut for saw to make and the condition of the blade and the fact that the pine is still green only compounded the difficulty. After about thirty seconds of labored cutting, the breaker tripped in the basement. I reset it and tried again.  After the fifth run to the basement, the switch on the saw actually fused itself shut and the saw wouldn't stop when I let go of the trigger. About half an hour with a philips screw driver an some emery cloth fixed this problem and I continued cutting. By the time I had finished the seventh run to the basement, I gave up on the saw and finished the last few inches with my freshly sharpened six-point hand saw. What a difference! After cleaning and squaring the cut with the planer, you couldn't even tell that I had made a mistake. Besides, now I have two nice 2x8s to use somewhere.

After all of this, I was ready to start marking and cutting the timber. I find laying out the joinery to be very relaxing and it was a welcome change from the rip cut. 
The process is simple: look at the drawing of the timber, draw each view on the respective face of the timber. Double check the measurements and the layout. Have someone else check them. Check them again yourself. Repeat ad nauseam before making any cuts. 

In this picture, I have already finished the layout and made the two long rip cuts which will form the fork end of a tong and fork joint at the corner of the sill.
 I have also cut the square mortice that will receive the post tenon. The tenon goes through both pieces of the sill, locking them together.

At work I have been using a power morticing machine to rough out mortices, but for this project I am using the old hand powered device in the picture. I was amazed that it took almost no effort to use and would cut a mortice in about the same amount of time as the electric machine. It is also much more pleasant to use since it is quiet and doesn't make fine dust.

After finishing the rough cuts, most of the joinery is finished with a chisel. A good chisel can pare a rough-cut face like this one right down to the line making it flat and smooth.

All four ends of the longer sills are now cut and finished. The next step is to lay out and cut the dovetail pockets for the floor joists.

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