Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The first tenons are cut!

I cleaned up the five posts by planing and sanding them on all 4 surfaces.

After this, I laid out and cut the five 2x2x2 stub tenons at the base of each post. This short tenon will connect the post to the sill plates during the frame raising. I think the tenons turned out pretty well.

Our five posts are comprised of four local softwood specie: Englemann Spruce, Douglas Fir, Pine (Ponderosa or Lodgepole), and two Western Larch (Tamarack) posts.

Peter cleaned up the three humongous top plates, visible on the framing ponies in the back of the photo below:

The next step is to carefully layout and cut the tenons on the tops of the posts, taking into account variations in thickness of the top plates such that the top plates will be perfectly level and at the correct height.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We completed some joinery and started in on the posts.

I cut the joinery for a couple of the sill plates yesterday. Today, Peter and I both worked on finishing up some other sill plates. Below is Peter cleaning up a half-lap joint with his chisel and his cool hornbeam mallet.

Last summer, I salvaged some timbers from a 75-year old local barn that fell down. Somebody else had salvaged most of the best timbers, but I managed to find a few usable ones. This old Douglas Fir beam was not quite an 8x8. It may have been milled undersized or perhaps it had shrunk down to 7.5" on a side as it dried. In any event, we decided to use it as a 10' long sill plate on the PCEI Artist Studio. I like salvaged timbers, and this one has a lot of local history.

Here you can see how we cut away the curved portion of the older sill plate at the joint. It turned out reasonably well, and certainly looks cool:

Its great to see old wood meeting new wood.

We are lacking one 8x8 sill plate timber, since we decided not to use a warped Douglas Fir timber that had been sitting around the shop for a couple years. We'll need to mill a new one soon. We finished three of the sill plates and moved onto posts.

We cut them to length and determined exactly which timbers would be which posts in the studio. We also determined which surfaces of each post would face which directions and labeled everything.

We started cleaning up the timbers using a beam planer and a large belt sander.

Here is Peter cleaning up an Englemann Spruce post, which will be the taller center post on the North side of the studio.

Here is Peter with a belt sander, cleaning up a Larch post.

Here is the Western Larch post after it has been planed and lightly sanded. These timbers clean up very nicely.

We were excited to see what the posts would look like on the sill plates, so we played around with that. It gave a better sense of how large this structure will be and how it will look from the inside.

Next, we will start cutting tenons on the posts. We'll need 2"x2"x2" stub tenons on the bottoms of the posts and larger tenons on the tops. This work is going well!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Building a PCEI foot bridge, Part II

I've finished all of the fun wood-centric portions of the PCEI bridge.

I laid 5' wide 2x6 Western Red Cedar decking across the stringers and attached 2x4 cedar boards on either side:

I applied two quarts of AFM Naturals Clear Penetrating Oil to the entire deck. I purchased this all-natural penetrating oil at The Natural Abode here in Moscow. This penetrating oil is made almost exclusively from organic plant oils and contains no heavy metals or other hazardous driers.

This penetrating oil will help keep the wood supple and healthy. It will retard absorption of water into the wood and keep the wood more dimensionally stable.

Here, you can see the deck is still wet with oil:

A side view of the completed bridge:

And some miscellaneous pictures of the bridge shown below. Overall, I think the bridge turned out nicely!

The next step involves mainly rock, gravel and dirt. The plan is to build compacted, natural earthen ramps up to the bridge from either side such that the grade is continuous up and over the bridge.

This will be useful for walkers and crucial for bicycles, wheelbarrows, and wheelchairs that will use this nice wooden bridge.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Building a PCEI foot bridge, Part I

This has nothing to do with the PCEI Artist Studio, but hey.

Last Fall, Tom Lamar asked me if I would be interested in building a small bridge across a wetland channel here at the PCEI Nature Center. I told him that I would love to do it, but that I would keep it very simple and rustic. My plan was to mill a couple of stringer logs flat on the top and bottom and span the distance across the small stream. After that, I'd apply a 2x6 Western Red Cedar decking across the stringers.

In late Fall, Jacob Dolence (a PCEI Americorp Volunteer) and I milled a Western Larch and Grand Fir log in this way and we brought them to PCEI. Unfortunately, weather (snow and frozen ground) prevented us from moving the stringer logs into place across the span. However, before the snows came, I did excavate large "foundation" holes on either side of the waterway and fill them with river rock. The stringers will sit on these piles of rock, which in theory will help drain water away from the base of the bridge.

Above are the two milled stringer logs, waiting to be moved into place. The waterway is behind them in this picture. The logs are sitting on Western Red Cedar "footings" that I also milled flat on two sides. These 4" thick rot-resistant Cedar footings will have direct contact with the ground so that the logs don't have to.

The Larch stringer on the left is 9.5" thick and the Grand Fir stringer on the right is 10.5" thick. I had meant to make them the same thickness at the mill, but that didn't work out, so I will have to reduce the thicker log at the ends to make the bridge level.

The first order of business was to move the stringer logs into position across the span. Since I was working solo, I used my Jeep's winch and a snatch block and the base of a nearby tree to drag the logs into place. Fortunately the ground was frozen in the early morning, so I was able to do all of this driving and dragging with very little impact.

After the stringer logs were in place, I raised the ends up using a large high-lift jack and put them on temporary supports made of timber framing scraps and 4x4s that I found in one of the PCEI toolsheds.

With the stringers in place and raised, I worked on leveling the cedar footings on each end of the span. The bridge needs to be longitudinally level but also level across its width.

I then reduced the ends of the thicker Grand Fir to 9.5" by using a circular saw, a chisel, and a mallet:

In order to prevent the logs from shifting and slipping off of the Cedar footings, I decided to peg the stringers to the footings. Here, you can see me using an auger to make a shallow peg hole in what will be the underside of the log. I purposely made the peg hole extra wide so that the 1" Locust peg would have some flexibility and make assembly a lot easier, since the log will have to contact the Cedar footer at exactly the right place.

During all of the activities, Mama Cat would come by and check out the progress:

Here you can see the shallow peg holes on what will be the underside of the stringers:

I drilled peg holes in the Cedar footing and put the 1" Locust pegs in:

I then flipped the stringers over, removed the temporary supports and teased the pegs holes on the underside of the stringers into position on top of the locust pegs.

Here are various pictures of the bridge so far:

The next (and final) step is to put 5' wide Cedar decking onto the bridge. That should go quickly and look fantastic.

Timbers have been graded!

After Peter and I organized and labeled all of the PCEI Artist Studio timbers in the shop, we invited Tom Gorman from the University of Idaho to come and grade all of the timbers.

We brought along a CAD model of the PCEI Artist Studio. Tom referred to the model often to better understand the spans, positions, and uses of the various timbers:

The process of grading timbers is mainly about identifying defects in the wood. Tom was looking for large knots, bad cross-grain, severe grain runout, shake, rot, etc. He visually inspected all of the timbers and found absolutely nothing of significant concern.

It was actually great fun to have Tom come and inspect our wood. It was clear that he a lover of wood and PCEI and that he is at least as excited about this timber framing project as we are!

Now that our timber has been officially and successfully inspected, we can proceed with the fun and exciting part: layout and cutting joinery. Yay!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cutting Elm Brace Blanks

The PCEI Nature Center lost an Elm tree to Dutch Elm Disease back in late 2007. The city of Moscow asked PCEI to fell the tree and remove the bark in order to kill the Dutch elm beetle larvae and avoid infecting other Elm trees in the city. An AmeriCorps Watersheds technician, Isaak Strout, felled the tree.

In early January, 2008, Isaak and I milled the Elm log using a Sperber chainsaw mill on loan from Nils Peterson, a fellow timber framer. We milled the small log into three 10-foot long slabs. I moved these slabs to my shop to air dry for a year.

We are using these PCEI Elm slabs for the PCEI Artist Studio! We'll use them for the 3x8 knee braces in the frame.

This weekend, we cut out brace blanks from the rough slabs. The first step was to use a chalk line to mark our 8" wide blank:

Next, we used a 10 1/4" circular saw to cut out the blanks by following the chalk lines.

After each 10' rectangular blank is cut, we cut each in half. Each slab produced two 5' long brace blanks. We used a large beam planer and a large thickness planer to smooth out the blanks:

The final result of this effort was four excellent Elm brace blanks, all coming from a tree that grew for many years at the site of the PCEI Nature Center. When cut, sanded, and finished, these braces will be gorgeous:

I think we were all saddened by the death of this Elm tree, but happy that the tree will live on in the PCEI Artist Studio.

These braces have an interesting story behind them and they bestow a deeper sense of connection between the new Artist Studio and the PCEI Nature Center.