I've learned through experience that writing off architects and designers ideas is often a mistake. Perhaps because working within a trade creates such a practical mind or it could be that I'm just cynical, but giving room for unique idea and working hard to get the result our client needs is important. On the project shown here, both the site contractor and I were left scratching our heads, wondering why anyone would want to back light some rough old doors. "Stud over it and plasterbaord it", "Fit some obscure glazing" were all ideas that seemed much more sensible to our practical minds. We even put those ideas forward, not through being lazy, but wanting to save the client money. But we kept going and made sure we did what was specified.
And the resuls were pretty impressive. I might of drunk the designers Kool-Aid but but the lighting really gives a glimpse of the age and original use of the building, something that is quickly lost when a renovation project is done. Making the oak doors was quite epic, due to the specification the doors finish just slighly under 90mm thick, real monsters. But it all worked out quite nicely. Although the photos are not the best, I hope you can see through the large fire resisitant units and see the old ledged barn doors with patched repairs, wooden latch and forged nails.
Although happy with our contribution it seem only right to give fair praise it seems fair to draw attention to the Architect who was great to work with throughout
Richard Boxall, Burn Valley Property, 01884 860 288
Also the contractor who we've worked with for years and always turns out a first class job.
Richard Slee, R J Slee Construction, 01769 573 907
When presented with the instruction from one of our best clients, that they'd like us to make a table top from Cedar of Lebanon, I was taken aback. It's a rare timber for starters, with only UK grown and converted wood avaialble. Luckily for me I did't have to supply the wood, the client had a storm fall tree that they'd converted a while back. It's not a species that originated here, most trees were typically planted as a specimen tree or similar. Traditionally Cedar of Lebanon has been used in the inside of furniture as it has a great fragrance and keeps moths and bugs away from your prized threads.
Each piece was a stunning 3.200mtr long x 450mm wide x 52mm thick with a view to make a top 2.900 x 850 x 47. Luckily we're well equiped with a planing machine that will cope with boards up to 520mm wide and a sanding machine that will deal with finished work up to 900mm wide. At about 560kg/m3 it's not too heavy but much heavier than the more commercially common Western Red Cedar that weighs in at around 330kg/m3. I was able to handle the seperate pieces with ease but called in help when the top was glued up.
When edge joining I always come striaght from our machine. I have read than many people favour taking a handplane to further refine the glue joint. All I can say is that I'm lucky that we have the quality equipment that get the result right first time without having to take the extra step. I normally only revert to a handplane if the work piece is to awkward to take to a machine, something like building up a stair string for a winder. The adhesive I favour for edge gluing is polyurethane adhesive, it has never failed on edge joints on a wide range of timber species and I feel it is much better than PVA or cascamite for this purpose. If you've never used it the glue foams as it sets has a bit of mixed reception by woodworkers. Perhaps people assume the foaming will fill gaps. I can only say that using polyurethane adhesive for gap filling is foolish in the extreme. The joint must fit as well as possible. The only area I don't like polyurethane glue is for gluing up joinery frames, especially with intricate mouldings. There's just too much clean up.
After sanding and moulding the edges with a small pencil round the top s ready for delivery. It's a very mellow and interesting timber to look at with nice movement in the grain. I was lucky that the two piece were defect free on the show faces and I was able to create a well matched top, the third image from the top shows that quite well. I hope the clients enjoy the new table top ad although cedar is perhaps not the best choice, it's quite nice to have a top that was made from a storm fall tree.
You wait ages for someone to ask you sharpen their saws and then two jobs come along at once. As soon as I had finished my previous client's saws I had another few arrive. Two were Spear in Jackson in black finish, not sure if it's a stealth edition they did but they were quite unsusual. They only needed minor work, just a quick touch with a file, large handsaw was crosscut, I filed the small dovetail saw rip. I was able to do that for £8.00 each. The Disston panel saw needed quite a bit more work. My client had hit a screw when cutting some wood, cutting a screw is often worse than a nail as screws are normally harder than nails. Not only were the teeth in the middle ruined but the tooth line was very hollow as you can see below.
With the straight edge touching the heel and the toe it highlighted that I had my work cut out to get the saw back into shape. After securing the saw in the vice I worked the teeth on the heel and toe with a file until the tooth line was close to straight. I could of gone for a touch more, but I often have to balance the time I spend against what the client is willing spend and the tooth line was much improved, lets say, more than accpetable. Teeth being removed shown below.
Teeth being formed again
Once the teeth were formed and sharp all that needed to be done was to add the set. For this much work I would need to charge in around £25.00. Last was the nice Spear & Jackson tenon saw. Sadly, my Woden saw vice would not allow the brass back of the saw to pass through, so I improvised and used a couple pieces of batten held in between the quick release vice on the bench.
With all the sharpening done I then took a moment to look at the etching on both the Spear & Jackon and Disston saws. The etching on both was from the same company, "John Hall Tools".
I thought it was interesting that both brands had the same etching. It didn't take long to discover that John Hall Tools were a large tool dealer selling various brands. You can read an old brocure here and see one of their shops in Bristol here . It felt good to get the Disston back into a well functioning tool, athough I had to work on the teeth the rest of the saw was in excellent condition. Hopefully the client can put all the saws to good use.
It's not often we get the chance to use home grown timbers in our joinery work. This is not unsual, the UK has been a big importer of timber for hundreds of years, from masts to furniture and joinery timbers. On this occasion the timber in question is English Oak (Quercus Robor) and we're using it to make windows for a unique Devon property. The windows are an early casement style and emulate the work of the stone mason in their design an proportion. The give away for that reasoning is the large mullions, head, jamb & cill with very wide chamfers and beyond that they look just like stone windows!
All the mortice and tennon joints are secured with oak pegs, rather than the more usual wedges. Very substantial pegs in regards to the frames. We made our pegs and found that making the big pegs was best done witht the "oversize pencil sharpener method". This worked very well, I think the guys caught how to do that from the various YouTube videos showing the method. The smaller pegs for the casements were made using a dowel plate.
The great thing with pegged joints is that they don't require the clamping during the glue up process, all it requires is an offset hole in the tenon and the joint comes up snug when the peg is driven home. The only reason I generally prefer wedges is that wedges avoid having end grain facing the weather and drawing moisture through. When the joinery is this big and of such a durable species it's not a concern for my lifetime.
We look forward to sharing a few photos of the installed windows in the coming months. As an aside I grabbed one of the offcuts which has some stunning figure. I ran my smoothing plane over the surface, it might of been just a sweet section of timber but it worked like butter, smooth clean shavings. Wiped on a bit of oil to bring out the beauty. I'll keep the offcut, would make a lovely box, drawer side or veneer material.