Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Basics

My current project is to make a set of open shelves to divide my one-room apartment into 'eating' and 'sleeping' areas. I've learned from experience that when it comes to making, I have to simplify my initial concept until it can be reduced no further- economy of labour, material, and the clarity of the finished object all dictate this minimalism. 

I thought for these shelves I had done my thinking well. One vertical post. One inclined post. Five horizontal surfaces. One inclined surface. I just need to make a few cuts and it will be done, right?

Of course, it seems simple, but there are a whole series of small tasks that take time to do properly- time that I don't often have between working full time and not being around a whole lot. As a result, four months later, the few cuts I need to make still need to be made. Well, I've done most of them, but there are still some left.

I've been learning a lot about working with pine. The difference between pine and walnut is sort of like...celery and carrots. If you snap a carrot, well, it breaks. Cleanly. (unless your carrot is a few months old). If you try to snap celery, a bunch of strings get left behind. The same with pine. I tried to work it with a knife, like I worked the walnut, and the fibres would shear off or not cut at all. The same with trying to work with a chisel- the edge gets ragged. Eventually, I figured that the best, and maybe only way to work pine cleanly is with a serrated blade- the finer the tooth the better. I've been making my (very few) cuts with a jigsaw, a small handsaw, and a coping saw.

Here's one of the basic skills I have learned: cutting a notch.

First, make vertical cuts to the depth of the notch. I read online that you can use your thumbnail to guide the first draws of the saw- that works well. I also scored the line with a pencil beforehand.
Next, cut down from the middle at an angle to remove a triangle of wood.

Same on the other side.

Then I used the coping saw to cut the bottom flush. I tried to clean some with a file afterwards, but I realize that when working with pine, it is best to be accurate the first time with the saw to avoid too much filing- again, because of the ragged edges. But I was pretty content with my fifth notch.