posts tagged with 'carpentry'

the work for today

I almost never write about my woodworking projects here. That's because I want to wait until they're done, and I actually never finish anything. I just get close enough that it's usable, and all the problems left are hard ones that I don't want to deal with. But today I did some work on Harvey's bed, and after four years—five years?—I think we might be getting close!

Actually, today's work was more in the nature of repairs, but they were repairs that I should have done right the first time. The great part about being a self-taught maker is that when you go back to past work you see how terrible it is and really get a sense of the progress that you've made! In this case there were some problems with the design that I was puzzled at how to solve, and my original stab at a solution finally broke down (well, broke down a few weeks ago; Harvey and Leah are very patient with me). This afternoon I saw a better way to do it right away, and it was a matter of just a couple hours work to not only fix the bed, but make it stronger and very slightly better-looking than before.

You know what would be awesome at this point in the post? Pictures! But I didn't take any. So I'll have to write a couple thousand words. The bed in question is a loft, and as originally designed one end was held up by the boys' dresser. The area under the bed I turned into kind of a cozy nook by putting some sides on it. But I ran into two problems. First, I wanted the planking to be unmarred by nail heads or screws, and my efforts to attach it from the back wasn't robust enough. And second, when the boys slammed their drawers enough times the dresser moved and the bed frame fell off it a little bit. It was the first problem that led to today's work—three missing planks on the wall were too many for Leah—but as I looked at it I realized the second was more serious. Happily, there was a pretty easy solution that took care of both, and it was done in time for Harvey to sleep in the bed! (He did let me know at supper time that he'd be happy to sleep on the floor downstairs; he knows my work patterns!)


my poor battered hands

Our lifestyle these days is tough on my hands. Looking at them now I see that only three out of ten fingers are free of marks of recent injury. Thorns, splinters, and fencing wire have all done their minor damage, compounded by the stress of dry skin and all the handwashing. On Tuesday, though, I got a couple headline wounds while putting a new roof on the chicken coop run. First, while lifting the rafter assembly I jagged a fingertip on a splinter. It didn't break off, which is of course better than the alternative but also means that it was pretty big! There was some blood, which I think now will permanently adorn the rafters of the run. A memorial, like. After they were up I had to get a bandaid.

Then a few hours later I hit my thumb with the hammer. So embarrassing, so stereotypically clumsy! But I have an excuse, which is that it was a challenging situation. I was putting up hardware cloth—which, I have to say, is about the worst thing ever invented when it comes to dealing out small scratches. But never mind, I'm used to that. No, the real trouble came when I was putting in one of the many poultry staples needed (if you've never worked with poultry staples, they're basically curved pieces of nail with points on both ends: staples that you put in with a hammer). I was reaching up above my head, holding the hardware cloth with one hand, the staple with another hand, and the hammer... wait. Alright, hold the hardware cloth and the staple with the same hand? Which is how, in the tapping-in phase, I got my thumb. I guess I tap pretty hard, since it instantly raised a blood blister and moments later a welling of blood around the nail. I asked Leah to put a bandaid on that one; two, actually!

Those wounds kept me from doing any more damage to myself yesterday. Today the bandaids were off, but I still stayed pretty safe: the only issue was a bleeding blister from some over-enthusiastic work with the axe. Life is good!


good fences

Even though it's still wintery cold—by our standards, at least—spring is on its way and it won't be long before we're planting in the garden. And there's already things going on: garlic, asparagus, and strawberries are getting started, and we're eating chives and spring onions. So I started to notice that we don't really have a fence right now. Fences are always a work in progress, but this spring is especially bad since in the fall I took down one segment as I was building the new deck and another to forward plans of expanding garden a little further around the back of the house. So we had some work to do!

The most important thing at this stage is to keep the chickens out of the garden. In the winter I don't mind if they're in there—I'm glad, in fact!—but once things start coming up they're just trouble. This year I didn't notice they were scratching in the strawberry row until they had pulled up probably half of the new plants I had put in at the end of the summer. That's pretty much taken care of now, with a reinforced fence between the lawn and the garden and a new chicken-proof railing along the deck. But of course they can still fly over the fence into the street and come around the other side of the house, so there's still more fence needed!

That's about half-done now, and in putting it up I had one of the finest moments in my (not very illustrious) carpentry career. I've made lots of gates and doors as our need for fences and sheds evolves, and most of them are pretty half-assed. These days I'm trying to commit a little more ass to things, so I took the time to measure and actually think the whole thing through, and I'm proud to report that the gate I created works very well indeed.

a new gate in a new fence

a great gate

It doesn't really show in the picture, since it melds with the rest of the fence so seamlessly; you'll have to trust me when I tell you that it fits perfectly, opens with the touch of a finger, and swings closed on its own. A masterpiece. The only bad thing is that I've set myself a high bar not only for future gates but for the whole rest of the fence. More work tomorrow!


Christmas woodworking

I'm gradually scaling up my Christmas woodworking. Two years ago I made a spice rack; last Christmas it was a much-needed shoe rack to go by the front door. This year I made an attempt at a bed for Harvey—well, a headboard—and I think it came out fine.

Harvey's new head-board on its test run

testing if it fits

It was motivated by my desire not to have Harvey resting his pillow, or his head, directly on the baseboard heater—and to make the room just a little more beautiful, of course. As well as being necessary to fit around the windows, the design was inspired by Handmade Houses, a book the boys and I very much enjoyed looking through last month. Only I haven't sorted out access to any sustainable or repurposed lumber, so I settled for good old #2 pine from the Home Depot, which was lovely soft and easy to cut and sand. Smells nice too when you're lying in the bed.

This is not great carpentry; it's barely even acceptable carpentry, in fact! But I like it, and Harvey likes it, and it cost about $30 to make, so that's not bad. I think there can be many good arguments made in favor of enthusiastic amateurism: as I reported to Leah in regards to the sewing, "I made lots of mistakes, but most of them not more than once. That's called learning!" The same applies to my woodworking. I'd probably do even better if I made more than one thing a year!