Treenails

Several of the chests I’ve used to inform this demonstration have been put together with treenails (trenails/trunnels/pegs etc.) I’ve used pegs for drawbored mortice and tenon joints quite a lot. A dowel plate is traditional for pounding them to shape and I’ve had some success with this method. It’s noisy work and sometimes I don’t get the straightest pegs but it does have one structural advantage – the pegs follow the grain of the timber.

IMG_0795Last summer I visited the Viking Centre near Ribe in Denmark. I was delighted to see them using an identical method but for much larger pegs. Their living history exhibits draw on a substantial body of research and I’m assuming that there is evidence that this is historically accurate. I’d welcome your corrections if I’m wrong.

However I rarely use the plate anymore. For this task I’ve chosen the “workmanship of certainty” over “the workmanship of risk”1. Partly because it gives more consistent results, partly because it’s a lot quieter but mostly because I get to use a really great machine!

Pegs through scarf

Boring the holes at an angle draws the scarf together. So they say.

In the interests of full disclosure: some of the treenails used in this chest will be pounded out by hand in a thoroughly medieval fashion but most of them won’t be…

1. Pye, D. 1968 The Nature and Art of Workmanship

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Sticking it to them

Sticking it to them

I rarely get the opportunity to bring out the big guns.

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This piece of ash is destined to be brackets in a chest. I started by ripping it out of a a thick board that’s been kicking around the shop for a few years. I’ve been avoiding it because it’s hard and has some particularly obstreperous late growth rings.

After squaring it I stuck a rebate in one corner using a thin iron in a plough plane from two sides. Easier than taking away all of the wood. Then I brought out the number 18 round plane. Of my half set of hollows and rounds only the 2, 6 and 8 sizes see much work. The 18s get out less than once a year and their big brothers, the 22s, have an even easier life.

Pushing a moulding plane through hard ash is energetic work and I resharpened twice, as much to give myself a break as to make wrestling it down the board easier.

 

Rotary trimmer

A few years ago I picked up an oddity. I assumed it was for trimming mouldings. I was wrong.

This week Jonny Ditchburn, a furniture designer and maker from Boston (the old one, not the one with the hatred of tea) posted a picture of the, for want of a better word, thing he’d just found. He asked for any information anyone had. I proffered mine and Oli Sparks told us what it was. Oli knows a thing or two about planes so I’ll believe him. He was backed up by Alex Holden, who seemed to know a little more.

I have no use for a lead trimmer but it works well for mitring small trim so I’ll be hanging on to it.

 

Octagonalising…

Eight times as bad as antagonising? No. Turning square sections into octagonal sections. How many of us have to use it before it gets a place in the OED?

I’m reading The Anarchist’s Design Book at the moment. I’ve read the first four chapters and skimmed the staked furniture projects. One of Chris Schwarz’s contributions to chair making is finding ways to build them without a box fullof specialist tools. Most of the time this is helpful and appreciated. Rather than creating anarchy it democratises the craft. But sometimes a specialist tool can really help and won’t cost the earth.

Take for instance the process of turning tapered, square section legs into octagons. He quotes Charles Hayward’s method using compasses and a straight edge (since he’s just published two tomes of Hayward’s work it must have been fresh in his mind). It’s a lovely technique and is fun to do. If you’re only going to make one chair it’s great. If you are planning a run of them try this:

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Spar maker’s gauge

It’s called a spar maker’s gauge. When building masts, booms, gaffs, lugs, sprits, bowsprits, boomkins or any other pole a boatbuilder often starts with a square section piece of wood, tapers it at either end and then planes or saws the corners off to make it an octagon. It’s then a bit more planing with hollow planes and you’ve got a rounded spar.

Hayward’s compass trick wouldn’t work here. There are tapers at both ends and they aren’t uniform. Instead they use this gauge. Building it is a matter of a few minutes work. The gap between the dowels must be slightly larger than the largest diameter of the spar, or in this case, leg. The spacing is critical. It’s better explained here.

Last year, when I built a stool for my new workshop, I used it for the legs. Works a treat. You might prefer pencils rather than nails. If you plan to build more than one chair it will be worth it.