Sunday, January 25, 2009

I finished a new framing pony today. I needed a new pony, but I also wanted to try some new things with timber framing. I wanted to use hardwood (Elm) knee braces, cut decorative curves in the braces with a bandsaw, and use a different mortise/tenon style for the braces.

After cutting the tenons on my braces, the first order of business was to layout my brace curves. I used an excellent ruler that my dad gave me which is centered at 0", allowing you to quickly and accurately find centers.

Using a combination square, I marked the deepest point at the center of the curve.

Writing with a pencil on 3/16th" poplar stock that I got from the hardware store, I free-handed one half of the curve and then cut out the curve template with a jigsaw.

By building a template for only half the curve, it was trivial to get the curve to be completely symmetrical.

I bartered some cherry and American elm slabs with a local fine woodworker for time on his bandsaw. The results were nice, as you can see below.

Below, you can see as I start to fit the "timbers" and braces together.

I do not drawbore my joinery. Instead, I use ratchet straps to pull the timbers together so tight that the wood starts to deform. Once this is done, I can then bore the peg holes and drive the pegs in. The pegs will "forever" keep the wood as tight as the ratchet straps did. In my opinion, this is nearly as good as drawboring.

I sanded everything and put a coat of Landark interior penetrating oil finish on everything. This is a 5-species framing pony: Ponderosa pine top, Douglas fir legs, Engelmann Spruce bases, American elm braces, and Locust pegs.

The joinery turned out pretty tight. Much better than my first set of framing ponies!

I routed a decorative 45 degree chamfer on pretty much all edges.

Mmm, wood. This American elm brace does a good job of showing off the color differences between the heartwood and sapwood.

The elm braces turned out better than I could have expected.

I've got timbers already cut to length for two more of these ponies. The braces for them are already finished.

The finished product.

Friday, January 23, 2009

While I am waiting for the snow to thaw so I can continue working on the cabin, I thought I should talk about tools.

When it comes to removing wood, chisels are the tool of choice with Timber Framing.

I use Barr framing chisels, which are forged close by in McCall, Idaho by Barr Quarton. I own a 1", 1 1/2", and 2" chisel. I also own a large 2 1/2" wide slick with an 8" long blade. I also own a 7/8"x7x8" Barr corner chisel, although I rarely use it.

I sharpen my chisels with a two-sided diamond sharpening stone from DMT.

I've tried many different mallets (for driving chisels), Wooden mallets, rawhide mallets, round mallets, square mallets, etc. The one I settled on is a 30 ounce round carving mallet with a soft, urethane head. It provides better countrol and balance, better force, and less shock to the hand and wrist.

I really wanted to go with an all-wood mallet. I really did. But urethane won out here.

The next most important tool to the modern timber framer is the circular saw. I've got 5, and each has their own job.

The right-handed Makita 5402NA 16 5/16" beam circular saw is shown below. This is a large saw and can cut 6 1/4" when the blade is set at 90 degrees. It is a bit daunting to hold, but once you power it up you realize that it is somewhat underpowered. The blade spins at low RPMs. I've had a lot of problems doing any kind of precision work with this saw. It is good to quickly lop of ends of timbers, but that's about it. Some have recommended I upgrade to a 64 tooth carbide blade, so I may give that a shot.

When I was struggling with the large Makita (above) to rip hardwood knee brace blanks from 3" thick American elm, I decided that something a bit smaller but a bit faster would probably be ideal. Hence, I recently got a right-handed Makita 5201NA 10 1/4" circular saw. This saw will cut 3 3/4" when the blade is set to 90 degrees. I can precisely and quickly rip my elm slabs with this saw. It also works well on tenons that require cuts deeper than a conventional 7 1/4" saw can do. This is a pretty ideal saw for many timber framing cuts.

My real work horse, however, is my right-handed Makita 7 1/4" circular saw. I use this saw for cuttings tenons, dovetails, and more. No other saw gets more use in my shop, as you can probably tell from the picture.

Some cuts, especially dovetails, are much easier done with a left-handed circular saw. Here is my left-handed Porter-Cable 7 1/4" circular saw. This saw gets very little use, but I've been really impressed with it when I'm cutting dovetailed tenons.

I also have an old worm drive 7 1/4" Skilsaw circular saw. Its worm drive gives it more power, so it is especially useful for ripping thick hardwood stock. I rarely, if ever, use this saw. I find the other saws to be sufficient and lighter weight.

I'll post more about tools sometime soon...

Working with Elm is fun.

I decided that I needed some more Timber Framing ponies in my shop. The two that I built back in 2007 turned out nice and have been real "work horses" (pun intended), but I need a couple more.

For another ongoing timber framing project, I plan to use American Elm (Ulmus americana) hardwood knee braces. Peter and I have been collecting American Elm from the local park, where several trees a year have been removed due to Dutch Elm Disease. I've got huge quantities of elm now. We've largely been slabbing the elm into 3" thick slabs and then stickering them to dry:

I used a 17" Makita beam saw and a 7 1/4" Makita circular saw to cut blanks from the slabbed elm. I used a chalk line to snap straight lines onto the slabs, and then used the circular saws to cut the blanks.

The elm is great to work with. It is still pretty green, and it works nicely with power and hand tools. It is a little "fibrous" and softer than I would have expected (as compared to Red Oak). Circular saw cuts usually leave short stringy fibers which can be scraped, planed, or sanded away. I've noticed that kickback from binding circular saws can do a lot of damage to elm. Its kind of a weird wood to work with, but in a good way.

The result is nice. Much of the elm is figured. It will look stunning once it is finely sanded and oiled.

I'm building three additional framing ponies. Here are the nearly finished elm braces sitting on top of some timber-framed framing ponies.

The next step for these braces is to cut a decorative curve into them with a bandsaw. I bartered some elm and cherry slabs for some bandsaw work from a local amateur fine woodworker. Its all good.

I've finished the "timbers" for one full framing pony. Most of this was mortise work, but the Makita chain mortiser made quick and clean work of those. I'm using softwood scraps for the remainder of the pony. Here, I am using Ponderosa Pine bases, Douglas Fir legs, and a Ponderosa Pine top. Some of the ponies have components also built of Englemann Spruce.

A 4-species timber framing project, with almost all of the wood harvested by hand from the yards of friends, family, and the city park!