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The Air was Moist

July 13, 2013

I went down to the farm this morning. It was drizzly, but rain never made an unambiguous appearance. I knew my dad would be there and was thinking about how different his childhood on the farm would have been from children’s today. No worries about UV levels, deer ticks, west Nile virus. All he had was pre-antibiotic infection, the Depression, and U-boats patrolling off shore. I suppose it was ever thus.
I went down today, despite the forecast (chance of rain or thunderstorms) because I was worried that the humidity might have done to my tools down there what it had to the tools in my school shop, that is rust them. The tablesaw (yes I sometimes use a tablesaw) had several spots of rust on its cast iron top just from the humidity in the air, and I was afraid of what I might find in my tool chest sitting there on the ice barn floor. But those tools were all fine and I left them down there another week.

I spent most of the day finishing the legs for the walnut bench I am in the middle of building. Because of the extreme humidity, I have been concerned about making the legs fit. The walnut splits beautifully, and if I hammer the legs in too tightly I risk splitting the slabs wide open. But if they are not tight enough, they will be small when the humidity drops at summer’s end. I did two things to try to address this issue. Time will tell if they work. Firstly, I did not use through tenons, as I usually do. I used my auger which cuts about a 1 ½” diameter hole and bored the hole about two inches into the 3” bench.

Using an auger to bore holes for the legs.  Note the bench is joined at an angle so the leg can be perpendicular to the bottom of the side but the legs will be splayed.

Using an auger to bore holes for the legs. Note the bench is joined at an angle so the leg can be perpendicular to the bottom of the side but the legs will be splayed.

This should make them less prone to splitting and means there will be no holes in the bench’s top. Then, when cutting the tenons, I shaved down their sides so that they would not exert splitting pressure on the grain. I then felt free to hammer them home with plenty of force. If they do shrink, they are beefy enough that I should be able to put pins in through the sides of the bench or even try a fox joint. That is a joint that is wedged from the inside. It is very strong, but unforgiving. If you screw it up, it is hard to take apart and try again.

This is the so called Fox Joint.  Was the tenon is driven into the mortise, the wedges expand the tenon and hold it in place.  Mine would be the same idea only round.

This is the so called Fox Joint. Was the tenon is driven into the mortise, the wedges expand the tenon and hold it in place. Mine would be the same idea only round.

Lastly, I decided to take the two halves of the seat apart and replace the dowels I had holding them together. The old dowels seemed a bit loose, so I made three new ones. Each is about 6” long, with a 1” bit of bark in the middle. I made them by cutting a 2 ½” tenon on each end of the 6” twig, leaving 1” untouched in the middle. Once they were pounded in fully, only the untouched twig part is showing. This took some serious pounding (humidity again) but the results look good to me.

Three new dowels for joining two sides of the bench.

Three new dowels for joining two sides of the bench.

New dowel in place.  Note the bark is visible.

New dowel in place. Note the bark is visible.

Two sides joined with new dowels.  The foreshortening makes it appear that they are not evenly spaced, but there are even.

Two sides joined with new dowels. The foreshortening makes it appear that they are not evenly spaced, but there are even.

I am hoping to use my little forge to make two large U shaped “staples” to pound into the ends to hold it all together (if things shrink and become loose) and they may also double as handles. But that will have to wait until it gets cool enough for me to consider firing up the forge.
One of the things I realized this week is that my reading habits have an annual rhythm based on the sports seasons (most of all the baseball season.) During school I read a bit during the football season. The radio broadcasts are only once a week, so most evenings I can read. But when the baseball season comes along and I stop reading until school gets out, whereupon I read a lot more during the day. This summer, I have already read one book about the battle of Bunker Hill, one on the battle of Gettysburg, half of one book about time travel, and ¾ of a book about debilitating anxiety. Some time over the next few weeks I am going to try to write a bit about some or all of these. You don’t need to know that, but if I announce it, I may be more likely to do it.
So, here’s hoping for dry air and abundant produce. Cheers and check for ticks!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lydia permalink
    July 13, 2013 8:14 pm

    Your articles are great. I love learning about wood and tools. Plus, your reminiscences of old Holly Hill are special and certainly hit home for me.

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