Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another type of woodworking

I've heard it said that if someone spends too much time in a furniture making workshop, they risk the possibility of becoming a piece of furniture themselves!  I haven't exactly noticed any stretchers growing out between my legs, but for quite a few years I have had an additional occupation of removing trees, both in residential settings and in the woods.  I find the heavy work intrigues, and it does get me out of my lonely in the shop, the chance to work around some good people who are well experienced in the business and very enjoyable to associate with.  Mostly a crane operator rings me up to assist him on jobs these days, on the average three or four times a month, just enough to provide a change of scenery and to keep my hand in it. Chainsaws are also tools that I enjoy using very much, sometimes modifying them to obtain greater power, they are a deep subject if you want to pursue it.

Tree work is very much a trade that best has a lot of study associated with it, if one wants to gain efficiency and try to help mitigate the dangers.  There can be a certain degree of unpredictability that goes along with it, tremendous diversity in the situations, so being careful on all fronts requires a lot of awareness.  Working at heights has it's challenges and enjoyments, the need to pay close attention to what you are doing, lesser so to where you are doing it.  Overcoming the fear factor has been quite interesting, if not spooky, and there are payoffs besides the wages, the air is amazingly fresh and clean above the forest floor, the view sometimes sublime that few get the opportunity to see, it can be most invigorating. The work gives a chance to visit some locations in the prefecture that otherwise I wouldn't, and to mix it up with the locals a bit. Tree cutting brings them out of their houses, people want to investigate, and there is a fascination. There is also the opportunity to sometimes obtain logs for what I do in the shop as well, though in my area, Pine or a pretty unusable Cedar is often what is being cut.  Unusable for furniture that is, though the logs go to auction and are purchased for use in construction. Some large trees are in our schedule from time to time, sometimes hundreds of years old, particularly at temples or shrines, and around the old farmhouses.  Why they need to be removed isn't a subject for much debate, age and disease has affected many of them, leaving in that state can be very dangerous to people and structures below.  The forest trees haven't been maintained very well, removing some to allow more light to help the others to better prosper is a valuable consideration.

Thought that I would post a few of the times and places, hope that you enjoy the photos, click to enlarge.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

A tip from Asia

Our ubiquitous bamboo works very well for pining joints.  It is quite strong, and with better resiliency compared to most woods of a similar dimension.  In the states, you can often find what will work at markets that have an Asian food section, probably sold as skewers in a pack, around 1/8" diameter, and sometimes larger ones are also available.  I mostly use the smaller size, pin all the leg stretchers on chairs this way, and some other places where I want a lock with minimal appearance.  It works great.  Especially with darker woods, it reveals a small point of attention; a nice tiny detail for those that care to see.

There is some variation in the diameters in a pack, so I find it best to drill a hole slightly small and the skewer can be easily sized down quickly with sandpaper for a perfect minimal resistance slip in fit.  I put a little angle on the end with a rasp before pushing it in, a slight amount of glue applied.  The bamboo doesn't seem to swell up as much as wood does when glue touches the surface, perhaps barely at all, and it is a bit slippery to begin with.  A little tight and it taps in with a hammer.  Too tight and it will likely become stuck only part of the way in, so you will end up having to drill it out and redo.  Snip and pear it flat with a muss no fuss, and the process goes quick.

The skewers can be useful for other things as well;  applying a spot of "instant glue' to under a sliver of grain that has lifted up, or pushing a cloth with finish on it into a recess, etc.  Some thoughtful person brings a bottle of sake, nicely drunk with yakitori grilled in the stove in the shop, not a bad reason to have some skewers around either....