April 28, 2016

A Quick and Basic Frame Saw


I bought some rough cut green oak from a local supplier early this spring, for making into some plant trellises and a little perch on a maple tree for the kids. Feeling that this by itself was not enough of a challenge apparently, I decided to try to do a bit of carving on the tops of the posts to make these installations more interesting.


Rather like when I tried to carve the transition pieces for the handrail on my back stairs, I quickly realized I am a terrible wood carver. When I'm trying to remove material, I'm constantly feeling like it is going poorly. I feel as clumsy as if I were trying to stack up marbles with chopsticks while wearing wool mittens. One thought that is difficult to banish is "If only I had a different tool this would be going better...".

With the handrail I ended up using a carving wheel on an angle grinder, but I wanted to try to stick with hand tools on this project. One issue was that the green oak in thick sections will quickly load up even a coarse coping saw blade. My carpentry sized ryoba does pretty well, but the blade is wide so it can't turn in a cut very much. A pruning saw does ok, but mine is not as sharp as it could be and the blade is still pretty wide.

I had the idea of using a bow saw type blade with gnarly teeth to do some of the rough material removal. Bahco/Sandvik makes some nice ones in 530mm length, available from Amazon. I bought one for green wood, one for dry wood.

Now we just needed something to hold the blade and tension it. I sketched up a frame for the blade in Inkscape, printed the parts on large paper and cut them out with scissors to make templates. You can download the SVG file here.



Some well seasoned beech wood was pulled from my stash and chopped to length.


Marked around the template pieces.


Roughed the parts out with the bandsaw.


Sanded the cut edges, eased the corners with the router, then sanded the faces


I made some through mortises using forstner bits on the drill press


followed by some chisel work.


The matching tenons were done with a dozuki saw


and a chisel to finish things up and tune the fit.


The fit and quality of the mortises and tenons leaves something to be desired, and I had cut the center brace piece too short to be able to make the tenons come all the way out the far side of the end pieces.


I made the best of it and figured it would be ok. I beveled the inside edges of the exterior side of the mortises to come down to the meet the end of the tenons, which makes it almost look like I intended them to be short.

For the top tensioner, I used some stainless 8mm OD tubing I had sitting around, which took a nice internal thread for an M6 flat head stainless screw.





The blade is retained with some stainless dowel pins, which fit snugly in cross drilled holes in the wood.




After some test fitting, I finished the three wood pieces with three coats of Waterlox.


The blade actually stretches more than I had anticipated and I had to cut the tension tube at the top a little shorter. Still could use more trimming in fact to get more tension, but the shorter it gets the more poorly the tenoned center brace fits the side pieces.

How is the performance? Well, I quickly determined having this saw is not making me better at carving. Ugh! But on the plus side I have a handsome homemade saw hung up in the shop, and Buster had fun doing the project with me.


April 11, 2016

Tapping the Urban Maple, and Boiled Cider


Last year, I read about tapping trees that are NOT sugar maple at the blog of Anna Hess, and I resolved to tap the handful of trees on our small city lot. We have two Sycamore Maples and two Norway Maples. I had no idea what to expect, but I thought it would be fun to try. The easiest way I could come up with to test the waters was a piece of metal tube stuck in a hole, with a length of tubing run down to a container sitting on the ground.

April 7, 2016

Violet's Tiny Embroidered Buckwheat Hull Pillow


She has had this project going for a couple years now, but recently wrapped it up.

March 24, 2016

Garden Review 2015: Strawberries, and other Permaculture Plants


Perennials are coming along, most of them more slowly than I'd like. Some died. Strawberries were a huge success, others gave a couple fruits and berries. We planted some new edible vines and shrubs.

In other recent posts I have written up Apples, perennial greens & herbs, and alliums. But there are plenty of other plants I feel the need to write up!

March 15, 2016

The Children Assemble a Nixie Tube Clock


Violet had been wanting a clock in her room for a while, to know how late it was getting when she is up reading after bedtime, and also to be able to set an alarm to get up in the morning. We could have just purchased a cheap clock from any number of retail sources, but I thought it would be a good opportunity for a project.

March 1, 2016

Aggressive Composting, and Retiring Chickens


Reading The Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins last year really inspired me to try to compost (almost) everything. So this last season we started ignoring those picky commonplace composting rules often given to home scale composters. Such as: No Meat or Animal Products, No Fat, etc. We just started putting it ALL in there.

February 17, 2016

Enterprise #25 antique iron sausage stuffer, plus sous-vide sausage




In our menagerie of hand cranked food processing machines, I've long felt we were missing a sausage stuffer. I was attracted to the cast iron vintage beauty embodied by the line of small stuffers manufactured by the Enterprise company, of Philadelphia.

February 6, 2016

Cutter Family Clothing Archive: 19th Century Striped Plaid Silk Dress


This is another wonderful dress entrusted to us by Becky's good friend, taken out of her mom's attic in Cambridge. The fabric handles like a medium weight, plain weave silk. It has a lustre about it and is very smooth, and a little stiff, like a taffetta.  Looking at the construction and style, I'm guessing it is late-ish 19th century, but it could be earlier or later than that. Maybe some costume or historical clothing people out there can offer their opinions...

January 26, 2016

Garden Review 2015: Popcorn, Fiber Flax, Wheat


We grew a little popcorn, which gave a higher yield of easy to process grain than any other grain I've tried, even though by the standards of corn it didn't do great. A small patch of fiber flax, which did nicely and looked great while growing. Tried a bit of Red Fife wheat, which was an utter fail.

January 16, 2016

Urban Micro Orchard: Year 2


The 7 apple trees in the micro-orchard did very well in the beginning of the season, we ate our first couple fruits in the fall, and got plenty of production from the companion plant understory. Overactive management on my part led to the destruction of 2 trees in late summer. Nevertheless, I have high hopes for next year!

You can find a post about the design of the orchard here, and a review of the first growing season here.