Doing it the hard way - long post

Picked up a commission recently to build a partition wall in my local pub. The pub is an oak timber-framed wattle-and-daub building dating to 1790. The landlord wants the new wall framed and half-panelled in oak, to fit in with the original timbering. I reckoned that if he wanted air-dried stuff of those dimensions (5"x 5" stiles, 4" x 4" rails) it would cost him an arm and a leg. We talked it over and he decided that, since the original would have been built with green oak, he'd go with that - 13.50 GBP per cu ft ( bd ft for you Yanks!) beats 50.00GBP, after all.
I pointed out that green oak would warp, twist, bow, split and crack, but he's happy, with that, since that's what the original timbers did.
Finally got the timber delivered Friday from a local sawmill. Beautiful stuff, but summer-felled wood, so it really is wet. I decided , through a combination of nostalgia and respect for the place and the timber, that I'd do the job the old way, so for the last couple of days, I've been working out in the pub car-park on trestles, hand-sawing out huge tusk tenons and chopping out 5" x 1 1/4" through mortices in big timber with a F-O big mallet and chisel.. We've had a heat-wave here in UK and it really has been glorious weather for working outside.
I've been amazed at the amount of interest it's generated among the customers ( passed out quite a few business cards!) - the number of people who've commented that it's good to see a man working in traditional fashion has been really gratifying. (I forebore to comment that if it wasn't for my Service Pension, I couldn't afford to do it without power tools!)
It's the first time I've worked green oak. What have I learned? My first lesson was that my Western hand-saws are useless in timber this wet. 1/2" into the timber and they bind to the extent that they are almost unusable. Make no mistake, they're good saws, well-set and sharpened and well-lubed with candle-wax. My Japanese Ryoba, on the other hand, romped through it with next to no effort, ripping or cross-cutting, and with a finish and precision I simply can't achieve with Western saws. Few people over here outside of the woodworking fraternity have heard of them, so they generated a lot of interest as well.
Second lesson, although it's one I should have foreseen, is that wet oak and ferrous tools produce a blue-black stain better than any ink I've seen. I'm typing this with midnight blue fingers that have been scrubbed and scotch-brited until the skin goes thin.
Third lesson is that it's good to go back to basics, if you can afford the time to indulge yourself. There's a lot of therapy in hand-chopping big mortices. You use up a lot of aggression. Being able to take the time to talk to interested passers-by and stop occasionally for a well-earned smoke and a drink, enjoying the sun on your back and the birds singing helps as well.
Fourth lesson is that green oak cuts like hard cheese, with edge-tools. Sinking these mortices is a real pleasure, with clean, crisp corners and smooth faces.
Fifth lesson was that I dug out my old wooden jack plane for cleaning up the timber. I'd forgotten how much lighter, slicker and easier a well-tuned wooden plane is to use over a Bailey-pattern #5 or #7.
Downsides - well, an 8ft length of 5" x 5" green oak is heavy. Firkin' heavy. Easy to trap your fingers when you're rolling it around on the workbench or saw-horses doing your marking out.
The other downside - for the timber, at least - is that it's hot and dry here at the moment. So I need to get all this timber cleaned up, jointed, framed and secure before it starts to warp, twist etc. I've given myself until Wednesday. I'll let you know how it goes.
Regards,
Frank (Probably the happiest man anywhere at the moment.)
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Frank McVey wrote:

I didn't hear you say "adz" in all that. Didn't they cut those things with an adz originally?
Certainly not with some fangled rye-oh-bah doodad, that's fer sure. :)
Glad you're having fun. That's what it's all about.
--
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
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Pictures please!!!!
George wrote:

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Wipe your hands down with lemon juice to get rid of the black stain. Oh yeah, sounds like a fun and worthwhile project.
-- Rusty Myers Austin, TX

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been
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my
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Works like magic, Rusty - thanks!
Cheers
Frank

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By timber-framing standards, that (1790) is way past the glory days of the craft, which hit it's high points in the 1300 and 1400's (my uncle, now retired, used to restore such buildings). If you ever get the chance to look at the details of a medieval timbered building, it's well worth it. Some of the complex dovetails and interlocking joints they used are quite astounding. Knowledgable folk can date a building quite closely by looking at the joints.
John
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Thanks for the great post! I'm wondering, how did the 19th century craftsmen make these tenons; did they also use Japanese pull-style saws, or were western handsaws made differently back then, or did they just struggle with them?

-snip- . I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for sharing the happiness.
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On 21 Jul 2003 16:57:55 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@volcanomail.com (brad) wrote:

Well last night, on the UK Channel 4 there was a great program called "Machines that time forgot" - they built a huge (a couple of tons or more!) cathedral crane - it was quite an education into really old fashioned dust raising!
In the end they showed off by lifting an old clunker of a van weighing in at about one and a half tons, and that was done with just two people in the hamster wheel, and sometimes maybe two or three tuggin' on the wheel planks outside of it!
They were using a two handed/ended saw for jointing! One chisel had what appeared to be about a 6 or 8 inch wide blade and a hammer being used elsewhere maybe about a foot across the striking face! The one being used to bash on the chisel wasn't a whole lot smaller! They even had to pivot and balance the timers about on saw horses as hefting them about was out of the question despite there being a whole load of people helping - they had 8 heavy framing expert carpenters on hand organising it - and two on site blacksmiths making up hardware and sorting out tools! They all worked very, very quickly too - was highly entertaining to see.
They sure put the concept that today's tools are "power tools" into a new perspective on that gig! What we do today is "splinter whittling" by comparison! (yes, even that triple armoire!) ;O)
Absolutely awesome - they're doing some kind of fire ship/boat next week - a sort of floating flame thrower by all accounts - this is excellent stuff, recommend a watch if you are at all able to see it. Really wish I'd taped it! I surely shall next week! It was the first in a series of maybe 4 or 6 shows, so it's going to only get better at a guess! A DVD with that lot on it would be an absolute a must have.
Maybe if enough of us went to their site and pestered them enough to make one available, maybe they'd have to think about it some! I'll try to dig out a link for e-mailing them if there's enough interest in trying that approach.
Take Care, Gnube {too thick for linux}
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Caught a bit of that program, Gnube. I particularly liked the bit where the designer got pissed off with the heavy wood framers - he went to great lengths with a computer model to demonstrate why the unauthorised modifications that the framers had incorporated (like doubling the size of the hamster wheel) would generate such stresses that the machine would break. Comment by a framer - "WTF would he know, he's only a structural engineer..."
Suffice it to say that the machine worked magnificently, doubling the design load expectations.
I have to say that the 15" square green oak baulks they were using made my little 5" square stuff seem inadequate!
Looking forward to the rest of this series.
Cheers
Frank
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Consider it done, Kim - several times over! (hic!)
Cheers
Frank
says...

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Hi, Tim,
I'm off up to Scotland for a couple of weeks from Thursday, but I'll be back around the 7th of August. The pub is The Plough at Greetham in the county of Rutland, about 30 miles down the A1 from you at Newark. I should be in the process of doing a set of fitted wardrobes in the same place (150 yo reclaimed pine - lovely stuff) then, so please drop in and we'll have a beer. Not bitter, mind - I'm a lager lout!
Bring your tools.
BTW, it's only a wee wall, more of a partition, really - about 6 ft long x ceiling height. I'm not Hadrian!
Cheers
Frank

see
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Frank, If I can swing it, I will definately stop in. It would be sometime between the 12th and 19th. Is there a particular day or time that would be better for you? Since, I'll be working every day, an evening would be better for me; or even the weekend.
I'll apologize now, I'm not going to bring tools. They would be a b*tch to get through security. I'll take you up on the lager, however.
Cheers, Tim V
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