Friday, January 23, 2009

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!


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