Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Other Side of The Blade

One of the design features I most admire about the Farm House is its generous windows. The first-floor windows are the size of a doorway, and in the dormers the windows are as large as the size of the dormer will allow.

Here is how dormers are usually built, with the windows set back enough from each side to reveal some of the siding. This dormer is from the garage, which is new construction.

This is, of course, the dormer I'm working on currently. There is no siding to be seen on the front; it's all window and casing.

Here's the inside of the same dormer. As you can see, the windows are as large as they can be, so large that there is only room for half of the casing boards on each side.

This emphasis on natural light and ventilation is reflective of the Victorian concepts of beauty of utility (it's useful to have large windows when you're relying on natural light and windows are your only form of ventilation) and beauty of fitness (large windows are appropriate for a human habitation). While I'm no scholar of Victorian architecture, I have examined a great many Victorian homes in detail, and in my experience, the way the Farm House's dormers are constructed is unique. It seems to me at times as if the windows are actually wider than the dormers.

In fact, when the casing boards are taken into account, they are wider, by nearly an inch on each side. That's why the casing boards are backed on each outside edge by a trim piece that tapers back down to the siding. It protects the ends of the siding and the exposed backs of the casing boards. This is the "one more detail" I mentioned last time that I still had to attend to before getting back to the painting prep. The contractors made a new one for the right side, but they didn't for the left, and the existing one is thrashed beyond repair.

I thus had to fabricate a new one myself. This is what actually sealed the deal for me regarding the table saw. This job was possible using a circular saw, but it would be exceedingly difficult, and I was dreading the task. I knew that with a table saw the job would be considerably easier.

It was however still a bit tricky, simply because the entirety of my experience with the saw was two simple tasks. This would be a fairly wide cut, two inches, at an angle, in a one-inch-wide piece of wood.

Actually, a 7/8" wide piece. Yes, it's our old friend, the 4/4 S1S board. I told you this size of board was used everywhere in the Farm House. A 2-inch-wide  piece of this was no problem; I simply ripped it from the same stock of salvaged beadboard from which I made the new window casing caps on the south side.

The one small limitation I encountered was that I was not able to bring the piece down to a point at the back end of the bevel, because then the blade would hit the rip fence.

I thus had to maintain a small distance between the two. I didn't worry about it, because the contractors had apparently had the same problem when they made their new piece.

The contractors did some amazing things with a table saw. I figured if they couldn't put a finer point on this piece, then I sure wasn't going to. Apparently, this was something you couldn't do with a table saw.

So without any further thought on the matter, I cut the piece, and other than ending up with a few saw marks, the piece came out quite nicely.

Then, I looked at the waste piece.

Oh. Apparently you can cut to a fine point with a table saw.

My error was in using the wrong side of the blade. If I had put the fence on the other side, there would have been no worry of its getting in the way of the blade, and I would have had no problem getting a fine edge on the piece. Funny that never occurred to me beforehand.

This kind of dopey mistake betrays the fact that this work is not in my wheelhouse. The ability to think spatially, to work problems out in three dimensions, does not come naturally to me; it's a facility I've had to develop on the fly. As you can see, I have more work to do on that front.

This mistake also illustrates the underlying message of this blog: If I can do it, you can do it. I show you these mistakes because I don't want you to think I'm some sort of Norm Abrams or Bob Vila. I'm just plain Otis, a simple homeowner who needs work done and would rather save his money for better things.

Of course, once I had figured out my mistake, I had to rectify it. I ripped another two-inch strip from the old beadboard, then set up the saw with the fence on the other side.

Then, I cut the new piece.

Thus illustrating the old saw: Measure once, cut twice.

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  1. Spatially is the way I think , it's putting it to paper that the problem! Nice cuts, smooooth :-)

    1. We all have our strong and weak suits. I have this foolish fascination with going with my weaknesses so as to try to make them strengths. It's quite fulfilling, but one needs a good long life to make it pay off!

  2. Messy, isn't it. No wonder he's shaking his head!

    1. It's like the first chapters of The Grapes of Wrath around here, complete with hound dog.


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