This post should have gone out yesterday, but technical difficulties, soz.

Great excitement as the table project drew a little closer to completion. After a final sand and wipe, it was time to coat the timber to stop it drying out, and to protect it from moisture. Osmo (titular character in an Everybody Loves Raymond-style vehicle, with Cockneys) is the product of choice on this course. The instructions on the tin and from the carpenters were to apply sparingly, which turned out to be simultaneously a soothing and stressful process.

Underside first, where the initial opportunities to explore the parameters of ‘sparingly’ proved that it really does mean hardly any at all. Little rivulets forming along the joins, occasioning those runs up the legs with the brush to redistribute. One technique suggested was to slather it on across the grain before finishing off along the grain, and that seemed to work quite well on the larger faces. Also, starting slightly in from the edges, to avoid too much overflow.

Then, a hilariously thumby moment of turning the whole thing upside down to move on to the top. So soothing. Along and back, along, back… Yet this was also where the stress entered into it. The quest for non-drip perfection, when every brush stroke along the top squeegeed tiny drops of product over the edges. Dab… check… dab dab… check…

Eventually, though, there it was.

Shining like my eyes. The brush went in the Brush Mate tin, where brushes are prevented from drying out and hardening without having to wash them. I had a slight crusty qualm about the use of chemicals so powerful they have to be kept shut in a box at all times, but that was easily disregarded in the giddy excitement of the finish.

And that was pretty much it for the evening: leave it to dry, with the possibility of further smoothing, and another coat or so to complete it, after the Easter break.

I intended to have a go at some more dovetail joints for the remaining hour or so, but my own joints seemed to be seizing up, and uh-oh, bit of a thick nose and sore throat, just in time for the holidays, of course.

“Oh, Osmo… you nugget!”
(Osmo turns to camera, Jack Benny expression; canned laughter and credits)

Fixing the table top on this evening.

Despite having checked the pre-drilled holes last week, it was still a nervy experience fitting the actual screws. Getting them most of the way in with a combi drill, then finishing by hand with a pozi screwdriver, then slipping a hand under the table top to check nothing had come through.

Fortunately, the measuring was all accurate, so I have avoided the possibility of someone running admiring fingers across the surface of the wood then sticking a spiked finger in their mouth with an accusatory yelp.

Small victories, yes, maybe… but they’re my victories.

The rest of the evening was spent sorting out little issues that hadn’t quite occurred to me, such as having to plane the ends owing to the teeth marks left by the circular saw, which was a faff, then a lot of sanding down of those edges.

Finally, some superfine abrasive action with p320 paper along the top, which had such an instant and pleasing effect on the timber that I felt enthused enough to consider sending the Abrasives Company an endorsement, even offering to do voiceovers for their radio adverts.

“…for a smoothness that is unsurpassed…”

OK, it’s more of an audio gag, but, oh, you know.

Next week: Treating the wood with Osmo Oil.

“Osmo. The wood product specialist.”

Sanding the table top tonight…

 

 

A lot of glue to remove. The belt sander was keen! I felt I got a good arm and stomach workout keeping it from zooming off as I sanded and sanded and sanded for about an hour.

 

 

 

…then it was time to cut down to size…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week, some final preparation with the smaller sander… and the top should be ready to attach. Excitement!

 

Arrived at the joinery department tonight to place top on table. Discovered that this would entail, in the TV chef manner, that I first make my table top.

While my initial reaction was that as tasks go, this took the biscuit, I quickly warmed to the idea.

Three sections of timber, cut to roughly the dimensions required, needed to be joined up.

“Biscuits,” said the instructor.

“Biscuits,” I agreed with a nod, mouthing “Biscuits?” through an imagined fourth wall.

Equipment needed here would include a biscuit jointer, which is a tool used to cut crescent-shaped slots in the sides of the timber. Simple and satisfying to use!

You then liberally apply glue (we use Cascamite, a strong powdered resin wood adhesive), and insert the ‘biscuits’, which are dry ovals of compressed wood. These expand when they come into contact with the glue and form a strong bond between the pieces.

The gluing was also satisfying… slathering it on, squidging the sections together, then lining them up and clamping.

You can just about make out the marking up: a pair of diagonal lines forming a V across the sections removes any possibility of sticking them together the wrong way round.

Then I practised dovetail joints… but I’ll save those for a later occasion.

Next week: Random Orbital Sander (either another tool or a Stereolab track). Meanwhile, perhaps a biscuit. Rewards!

 

 

 

The middle of the week is enlivened by a carpentry course that I enrolled in last September. I’ve hand made a side-table!

It’s been very instructive – not just about woodworking techniques, e.g. the haunched mortise and tenon joints that are holding the table together. It’s offered me some fresh perspectives on the ways I can overthink things. Frustrations stemming from some fool’s quest for perfection, intersecting with the requirement to make pieces of timber into certain shapes and be square and of the correct dimensions, might seem like a recipe for brain explosions and total grumpiness.

Somehow though the craft seems to totally subdue the mental wrangling. Learning to follow and enjoy the process, getting into the moment of whatever it is that’s being done, and all the unnecessary thought gets smoothed off.

Tonight I was attempting dovetail joints. So fiddly! Definitely need some more practice with those. Good, however, for those one-line-of-a-song earworms I invariably get in such a scenario.

Oh yeah.

Following a short hiatus for…well, I don’t know what one might call it without sounding like a ginormous ass: de-rutting, groove reclamation, headspace refurbishment (“Hey, I like what you’ve done in here…”)… a comfort break… The Mortal Bath resumes refilled, topped up, nice and bubbly.

It was half term holidays this week just gone, and some sort of physical distraction from the scholastic toil was required. The stated aim had been to build a henhouse. This is the second time I’ve built one, and it was much easier going now I have more than the barest notion of carpentry I did the first time. I’m still fairly cack-handed, but it seemed to fit together less troublesomely.

So, I’m pleased to record, this evening, as the sun shone over the garden (which it has failed signally to do the entire rest of the leaden-skied week, by the let’s-emigrate-to-the-Mediterranean-immediately way), the coop was completed:

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We cracked a can of Amstel to toast its wooden goodness, and as a libation for the future roosting joy and eggy successes of its inhabitants. (Clunk of cans, distant approving cluck of hens…)

The continuing story of the construction of The Best Little Henhouse In Ryedale*

The start of summer 2014 brought a number of opportunities to relax. Six day weeks over, close to two months off. Time to kick back and wind down.

Yet I was on edge – and it was a poorly bevelled edge. My first attempt at a serious piece of woodworkery, putting together a henhouse, and for the first few weeks in July, all I was building was a carpentry anxiety complex.

To start with, I distracted myself with a lot of cosmetic stuff. It was pretty straightforward, wood treatment things. There were a number of sections taken apart from a hutch donated by neighbours mentioned in Fowl Play Part 1. They hadn’t had chickens in it for a while, so it wouldn’t have been cleaned, and it had become foxed.

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Note the clag, the bits of chaff and sawdust and dirt… As well as sanding the boards clean, I realised, I would have to completely re-treat the wood to make it weatherproof. The approach would be to sand it down, and paint it up, as I would sing to myself, to the tune of ‘Rip it up’ by Orange Juice as I worked. The 3 signifies me trying to be as organised as possible. Unscrewing each section, keeping a log of which bits went where, to help piece important bits back together accurately. I mean, this was sort of useful, although where the pieces went was kind of obvious even to an amateur armed only with enthusiasm and a blue permanent marker.

A lot of the older chicken manuals we used for our supporting material suggested creosote. The smell of creosote is very familiar and reassuring in a nostalgic sense. But best not savour too deeply on the inhale, Cletus! The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) rating for creosote is so high that you can’t actually buy creosote any more in the UK. You have to get a ‘creosotesque’ substance. Despite being less volatile, it is still nostril-wateringly bad for you, for the environment, and crucially for any poultry that might happen to be pecking at the timbers.

I went for a big tub of water repellent product, illustrated here:

quack!

quack!

It was VOC rating 2 (“Low”) , which may be painty sciencey make-you-feel-good meaningless woo, but it was the same price as the creosotish product, and I didn’t get the spins every time I levered off the lid.

‘Autumn Gold’ looked like neon orange when it was first applied. J joined in the neighbourly heckling on seeing the colour slapping on.

‘Dear me, you’ll be able to see it from across the valley. “Mimi’s: the best little henhouse in Ryedale.”‘.

‘Balls! Imagine it with late summer light playing across it,’ I rejoined, although secretly I was a bit worried. In those early stages of painting, even I had to admit it made everything look like Tom Jones’ towels.

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I was confident though. Weeks passed. The colour matched the existing pine sections as it dried, and we were having some extra nice weather… note how well the grass is mowed?  Yeah, takes a special kind of prevarication to get a lawn that baize-like. Slowly, though, the different sections of the coop got their coats of waterproof paint.  I was also getting into the whole DIY thing. As you can see above, I put together an impromptu trestle. Check me, the great handyman. And if I say ‘Handyman’ into a mirror five times, do I appear behind myself holding a power tool?

I digress. The bit being painted here is the laying box. Once I had all the bits of wood painted, it was time to start sawing. I got hardware from a number of different establishments, based on how well I could accentuate a confused amateur demeanour. You’d be surprised how willing some establishments can be to offer trade prices to someone non-trade who has mistakenly wandered in off the street with cash in hand and screws to buy.

Things I had to buy in:

Box of screws

Tenon saw

8 2×2 joists

 

Then I finally got sawing. I figured out (and if this is obvious to people who cut bits of wood up all the time, forgive my childlike wonder at the realisation) that I should splice the joints.

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I believe the technical term is a “half lap splice”, and I was pretty proud to have figured this out without recourse to manuals. Okay, the finishing is a little wobbly, and probably makes it a “3/8 lip spluce” or something.  I’m sure there might well be people looking at this and shaking their heads going ‘Nope, what you’ve got there – if it has a name – is simply an affront to carpentry.’ Whatevs… it’s still standing.

 

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The clamps were another loan from Brian, the actual joiner next door. He has tools over 60 years old that are still in perfect working order, some of which I got to borrow. Some, he actually let me have, as he’d replaced them with something nicer. Look at this:

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Purty! It looked a bit worse for wear when Bri handed it over, but a bit of light sandpapering and magic sponge and it was lovingly restored to this shiny glory. It was one of a succession of moments on this project where the full appeal of joinery, the whole ‘DIY’ ethic, was revealed. If I’d had a miter saw a couple of days earlier in the project, I might have avoided some of the more intriguing mathematical anomalies in the brackets…

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…although I managed the first few corners with only me new tenon saw, a smattering of elemental geometry, and many cheerful thanks about the square on the hypotenuse, the mitered ones were much better.

The mostly finished frame looked like this:

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…and finally we were ready to start attaching those orangey sides.

Next episode: Short back and sides, something waterproof on top…

*The Best Little Henhouse in Ryedale… ironic nickname coined by J, based on the garish colours, and prompted also by a succession of increasingly elaborate and lavish designs abstracting into fantasies of a spiralling, onion-domed, rococo ostentation, frequented by periwigg’d poultry clucking approvingly in heroic couplets. Which sort of happened.