Ming Inspiration (33)

Well, sick as a dog today. I didn’t sleep so well last night due to difficulty of breathing while a river of snot poured out of my nose. Wasn’t sure about getting in to the shop today, but I took a bit of medication and, suitably doped up, managed to put in 3~4 hours of work. And no, I didn’t operate any heavy machinery, unless you count my truck, the drill press, and my hollow chisel mortiser. Oh well…

Today was a much warmer day than the past few weeks, the warmest day since the fall of 2010 I imagine, which was really nice! I continued on with my work on the Ming-inspired dining table.
First thing I did was to mark out the lower cut lines for the legs. The table is intended to have a height from the floor of 30″ (the ‘standard’ being 28~30″) — though I have just playing with the thought to bump it up slightly to 30.5″. Still, When I look at that height it always seems too low to me, so I grabbed a derelict dining chair and set it up next to the table, shimmed to 30.5″, to see how things looked:

There was plenty of room for my thighs, so I guess 30~30.5″ will be fine.

Next up was a fairly tricky joinery task involving the locking mechanism for the leg to the table. I needed to cut some trenchways for shachi-sen (wedging pins) that are exposed on the front faces of the legs. These trenches are parallelogram in section, and run obliquely through the post. Here’s the layout completed on the face of one post:

These shachi-sen are to be 3/16″ thick and about 7/8″ tall.

Layout was also completed on the inside faces; eventually all four legs were done to the same point. Next step is to mortise what portions I could, and I figured the hollow chisel mortiser would get me started at least:

The smallest hollow chisel I have is 1/4″, though I believe there are 4.5mm ones available in Japan. That would have been nice to have, as 4.5mm is a tad under 0.1875″, but I managed all the same:

One pair of trenches halfway roughed out at least:

A view down the rabbit hole:

Here’s another one:

To trim the trench walls to the lines, I clamped a paring guide block on to the leg:

Then it was time for some chiseling:

Even the soko-zarai nomi (bottom scraping chisel) saw some of the fun:

Trenches roughed out to the halfway mark, I then chucked up a small brad point and went to work with the drill press:

Drilling is complete on this one:

Some of the holes cross onto the lines, however the lines are slightly on the tight side for width, so all is well.

When all four were done,

…I called it a day. Hopefully I won’t be feeling any worse tomorrow and my wife is bringing me home some medication that will help facilitate sleeping.

Next time, the plan is to clean out those skinny trenches for the pins, which will be a fiddly task to say the least, and then I will work on putting more joinery detail into the locking draw bars.

Little by little it gets there, but not as fast as I would like. I am reminded of a quote by Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter sent to his brother Theo in March 11, 1883 from the Hague, where he notes similar feelings to those I am experiencing today:

It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.

All for today. Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. –> on to post 34

7 thoughts on “Ming Inspiration (33)

  1. Chris – Really appreciate the time and effort you take in post this project, along with the wealth of other information on your blog. Since you are on the moving object, your perception of the progress may seem slow, but from where I sit, you are shooting by at 20,000 miles an hour! I meant to comment on yesterday's post, about the mirror polish you had on your chisel back. Your blog always has great photography. Hope you are feeling better.
    – David

  2. Chris, as you speculate, there are smaller hollow mortising chisels available, but they become problematical to use, especially in hardwoods. The internal bit will easily snap in two, and the chisel tends to also want to wander as you drill deeper. A very slow feed helps in that regard, but the heat buildup increases as a result, longer time to clear the chips, making the bits even more brittle. If you ever get to ordering any of the smaller ones, it is a good idea to also buy a number of the inside bits for replacements. With a lot of mortises to do, you can end up going through the bits pretty fast.

  3. David, thanks for the kind comments and wishes for my health. Still feeling radioactive this morning, but should be able to get some time in today.

    Djy, yeah, I suspected as much in regards to the itty-bitty mortising bits. Still, it's fun to imagine that there might be a tool which would make a job more straightforward, eh!

    Funny enough, the JET brand chisels that come with the PowerMatic mortiser I am finding to be quite excellent. They are at least as good as any Japanese or European mortising bit set I have ever used.


  4. Yes the common cold takes it out of us, but that sunshine will have you warmed for the work ahead.
    I'm guessing the white wood is a sacrificial spacer and the trenchways are deeper in it because you didn't have a small enough mortise bit.
    Wish I was there enjoying that sunshine.

  5. I'm caught by your comment to want to do the work faster, it is a particularly Japanese type aspiration that also gets associated with woodwork, and one way that craftsmen get separated from 'artisans'. Expressing individuality through speed, and a certain beauty that arises from the utilitarian, much seldom gets mentioned in the west.

Anything to add?