First Light (Installation) V

Expecting rain the next day, I decided to push ahead with getting the lantern head installed. I still had not found the box of assorted wedges and pins that I had made, so I went to the shop and fabricated some new ones, using some Ipé and Jatoba scraps I had kicking around. I keep skinny little offcuts for pins and wedges in a box on a shelf.

I brought along a Lie Nielsen skew rebate plane, which, with a fence fitted, works like a little jointer.

This is how I trimmed and adjusted the various wedging pins:

First up were the two wedges which lock the floor pan assembly and the bracket complexes below down tight to the post:

The two vertical pieces you see sticking up are lignum vitae hammer-head locking pins which are buried 8″ down into the post.

I trimmed the ramps until the wedges went in and then I tapped them solidly home:

A step back for a look-see:

There are empty slots in the middle of each sill you can see above. These were fitted with wedging pins which drop down into the pocket and then slide sideways to tighten. I forgot to take pictures of this step.

Next, I fitted the four posts, which are on a compound splay and which have cross-sections which are slightly diamond-shaped in cross section so as to produce a flat surface in every direction:

In the above photo you can also see the two wires for the light being snaked up through one of the posts.

I then discovered that some more bits were missing, pieces involved in framing the sole removable window panel. I could proceed no further with assembly until these were in place. So, back I drove to my shop (half an hour away), intent on fabricating some new ones. These pieces were rebated and had compound angle cuts on their ends, so it was looking like an hour or two of work lay ahead. As I got to the shop I realized the first order of business would be to root through that box of skinny pin stock to hopefully find some more mahogany for these pieces. I also had a slight hunch that maybe I should empty the box out…and that is when I found all the missing wedging pins and window framing bits. Whew! That saved me a bunch of work. I did plane some more pin stock, and after a 15 minute stopover in the shop, I headed back home.

With the four posts sitting in place, and the window frame elements in place, the upper roof assembly could be fitted – here you can see the wires making their way up and through:

The upper roof assembly, minus a few bits, now in place:

The electrical connections were secured with silicone-filled wire nuts, making them fairly watertight:

Now the roof panels and bargeboards, hafu, were fitted – and three of the window panels:

The mahogany is so stable that even after this lantern has sat for several years, everything still fit without requiring adjustment. There were a few new pins required here and there, but then again keep in mind I used to demonstrate Japanese carpentry during library talks and this lantern has been apart and together again 15~20 times. That’s not a normal condition for joined woodwork. So, grain does inevitably compress and take a set through so many assembly/dis-assembly cycles, which necessitates slightly fatter pins be fitted here and there to take up the grain compression sloppiness, which is on the order of 1/100″ or less.

Another view – the gegyo, a decorative pendant covering the ends of the structural ridge pole, is visible in the middle:

Then the capping ridge pole goes on, which engages simultaneously with two locking rods, six sliding dovetails, and two bridle joints:

A closer look:

The ridgepole fully down, the draw bars which hold the lower ends of the hafu in place were cross-pinned:

And the half-sliding dovetail pins which drive the roof board firmly up under the hafu are then tapped home:

The corner pins which hold the posts to the sill and wall plate are fitted next:

Finally, the two lock tabs which keep the removable window in place are snapped home:

Installation complete:

Another view:

There is one corner pin visible when has not been tapped all the way in yet – I’ll have to go and check to see if I have done that or not.

The lantern was fully wired and plugged in, however until dusk arrived I was left wondering  if the electrical was fully functional or not. Sure enough, when it got dark enough, the photoelectric switch on the wall powered up the lantern:

That was a moment of some satisfaction! Cue in the drum beat soundtrack from Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey….

I need to work a bit on the landscaping yet, but all those things will be done in good time. The lantern install has now increased my desire to bring the landscaping along a bit further. I have a plan to put a weeping Mulberry in the vicinity of the lantern, probably next spring. In the next day or two I will plant some ground cover at the base.

This morning I awoke to a heavy rain, the first we’ve had in a few weeks:

The lantern roof was doing it’s job fairly well – you can see the white moth which has taken shelter there on the lower part of the window:

Mahogany is very durable outdoors, so we’ll see how well it does over the years ahead. If things start deteriorating too fast for my liking, then one option would be to remove the roof assembly and sheathe it with copper.  For now though, I’ll just enjoy it, and I’m okay knowing that the weathering has now commenced and will march onward, inexorably:

Better the lantern be used and enjoyed, though in an environment which degrades it, than to have it sitting in my shop under a blanket, as it has done for the past 3 years or so.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. Final post follows.

20 Replies to “First Light (Installation) V”

  1. Chris,

    thanks for the comment and no, a birdhouse is not envisioned at this point. I do wonder if birds, bees, or wasps might look for a home in the lantern at some point though.


  2. Still as beautiful as ever!!KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!Is there any chance if someone wanted to build it would you consider selling a copy of the blueprints??Love to try!?Still great workmanship and detail!!


  3. J.T.

    I appreciate your positive comments. Sorry, I don't sell plans or blueprints. When you are ready to make something like the lantern, you will know how to design it.


  4. Lovely work mate! I think it would taken a certain type of person to fully appreciate a lantern like this and the price that it should command.

    Is this real mahogany or the African stuff?

  5. Neoshed,

    thanks for your comment. It's a rough piece of work but it is standing for the time being.

    It's Honduran Mahogany, not khaya. Many of the pegs are bloodwood, and there's a spot of lignum vitae here and there.


  6. I spent some time last winter playing around with the problem of building a small, water tight box. The challenge was something I could leave a box of matches in, for a month in January and have them stay dry.

    I ended up with a very simple box made of salvaged redwood, built along the lines of a NW tribal tackle box. It kept the matches dry, but I still haven't figured out a clever way to latch it…something with cord.

    Your lantern reminds me of the water tight box problem. Of course the coastal NW natives never made lanterns on a post…but it would be interesting to see how they solved the problem. Could you tell me what the aprox. overall dimensions are?


  7. Steve,

    it's about 2m. tall.

    I've made waterstone ponds before using joinery and they were quite watertight. If the joinery is tight, then humidity will swell things shut in most cases.

    There are Japanese tansu designed for use on boats which were also watertight, some even designed to float in such a way that the metal fittings on the outside of the boxes caused the box to be slightly submerged. I guess it was meant to be a way of concealing the valuables in case the local 'Somali' pirates attacked…


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