First Light XII

Back at the keyboard again after a week down in Baltimore at an in-laws place, where I did some carpentry work. This was some fairly basic work to replace an aged brick fireplace opening and re-do the flooring in the front of it, which involved numerous trips to Home Depot and Lowes stores. I was surprised to learn, in these adventures, that parquet flooring is not a commonly available product anymore, and needs to be special-ordered weeks in advance. I also learned that it is not possible to by plain (unfinished) t&g oak flooring, at least not from either of those stores – it all comes pre-finished these days, in one stain or another, and with a polyurethane coating. Everything is designed to be plug-and play, no creativity or craftsmanship thank you very much.

It was all very educational. I’d never been in a Lowes before (we didn’t have those in Canada, at least not where I had lived), and they seem very similar to the Home Depots in what they carry and how they are laid out, with one significant exception: Lowes actually have staff available, and willing, to answer your questions. My uncle-in-law and I walked out of a Home Depot after waiting 20 minutes in vain to get some sales assistance in the flooring department – and the store was not busy.

I also note the growing prevalence of the term ‘sales associate’ instead of salesperson. I guess it these mega0corporate entities, they appear to prefer to de-emphasize any sort of individuality or humanity in their employees, thus the term associate. It’s kind of like using cell in relation to an organism I suppose, an interchangeable, generic component, just one of many, easily replaced.

One time, I sent my uncle-in-law to the store to pick up the flooring, and I asked him to obtain some nails with which to fasten it down. This was just a dozen square feet of floor I was working on, and I don’t use a nail-gun and it wasn’t worth renting a specialty floor nailer, I just planned to use a hammer and a nail set. I didn’t specify a nail type of size – I asked my relative to simply ask the flooring associate which nail they suggest to use for 3/4″ floor boards. A while later, I get a call from my relative at the store, asking me if I would have a word with the associate in regard to my request for nails. Apparently, the associate is skeptical about my request, and feels that flooring can’t be installed without a nail gun. I speak with the fellow, and after I state that wooden flooring was installed for a few hundred years without benefit of pneumatically-driven fasteners, he waffles a bit and tells me that doing such a job is highly skilled work. Thus the associate was worried I might not be able to take on such a formidable and skilled undertaking. I was incredulous, however I politely assured him that I would be able to manage the task of driving nails in by hand at a 45˚ angle. My uncle brought home some 2″ finishing nails.

It’s hard to believe, and I’m still shaking my head to consider that driving nails by hand into flooring is now considered, by some at least, skilled work. I would have thought that geometrical hand-railing or some such was skilled work, but nailing flooring down hardly seems to qualify! Forgive my elitism here if that is how it my judgment in this regard comes across.

Okay – to be fair, putting a nail in on a diagonal through a tongue joint, does require a little advance consideration and some precautions – like pre-drilling and using a nail set to drive the nail home, but come on, it’s hardly all that skilled a task. French parquetry work, in all its intricacies, now that’s skilled, if I might offer a comparison from, er, reality (or what I think is reality at the very least).


Well then, back to the lantern project….

The next stage was the processing of the posts for the lantern head, which were approximately 1″ square. I say approximately, as they are to be re-shaped into rhomboids in cross section ultimately, so as to meet the sill orthogonally. This is the same sort of work as is required in Japanese splayed leg sawhorses, as one example, and I made some mention of this in previous posts about the irregular sloped sawhorse. I’ve also written about it in a Timber framing Journal back issue. anyhow, the first step is getting out the rough stock, and I had some pieces that were nearly the right size, along with a bit of scrap from the window and door shop down the street:

Out came the saw and time for another installment of Sawing for Teens, the ripping hit of a show where studio members can win fabulous prizes:

Here’s the four pieces now rough-sawn:

Then it was time for my old friend Mosaku, all 54mm, to make an appearance:

For some reason or another, I was not, um, firing on all cylinders that day, and after sawing out the pieces and planing to size, I had planed several pieces under size. After a few curses escaped my lips, I went back down the road to the window and door shop to root through their scrap pile once again. I found a few pieces, however the grain was not to my liking in the scrap, which entailed more saw work as I had to extract the desired pieces out of the rough stock on a diagonal and sloping cut orientation. Here we are after the first cut:

And the second cut:

Just one more to go:

At last it’s cut out:

I then repeated that with a couple more post pieces, following with another round of planing to get the posts out of wind, straight, square and, this time, to the required dimension. Then I proceeded to lay out the cuts that will be taken by plane to bring the pieces into their rhomboid sections:

As you can see, the amount to be removed is rather slight in this case, given that the amount of compound splay of these posts is fairly minor.

I then set up a pair of bevel gauges, one to check the angle after I planed down one of the faces to the line, and the other to check after two adjacent faces had been planed:

Here are the four posts now planed to the correct configuration:

They hardly look any different than if they were square!

With the posts planed to shape, I could now lay out the cuts for the end cuts and the tenon shoulders, and commenced trimming the ends:

In the next installment in this series I will show the cut-out of the tenons for the lantern head posts. See you then.

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