Fabula Lignarius

Month: May, 2014

Where the Sheep Live

The location of one of our ongoing project has provided me the luxury of working in my back yard. My landlord keeps sheep and during the winter they need shelter to keep their feet dry.

Back in 2012 we started with a design that was inspired on the local building traditions for a schaapskooi (dutch for a sheep barn). Eventually we moved away from from this preliminary design and added and removed many other elements upon request of the client. A shingled roof instead of thatch, different wood species for the frame and other requirements brought us to a design that can only be described as a hybrid structure. I believe it still fits really well in the local landscape and it will defenitly serve it’s purpose.

I was able to lay my hands on some big sticks of beautifully fine grained and clear Oregon Pine. Usually referred to as Douglas Fur but since these sticks come from a specific region with a higher altitude some of it is very fine grained. So the story goes if I may believe the importer of this valuable cellulose composed material. All sustainably yield and certified and although I can’t help to question this certification system it does help to keep us aware of the incredible value (besides the monetary value) of this amazing wood.

Oregon Pine sticks

In the middle of the roof construction we had to come up with a solution to support two purlins in a location where I preferred to have only a single post. The collar beam was connected with a joint that ran true the post and was secured with two pegs on either side. The joint is a variation on niho sao sac hi tsugi, yes that is correct you are allowed to use Japanese joints on any type of timberframe it doesn’t necessarily need to be according a single tradition. Both arms that form the collar tie beam where then supported by a carved bracket. The whole assembly was an experiment but it proves to be extremely strong and stiff. I was happy the way it came out but didn’t realize it really looks like a Christian cross until it was installed. Maybe it will bring me one step closer to heaven…

cross collar beam

Two very competent carpenters helped me on this project doing most of the kisami (cutout).

post assembly

Some of my dear old friends where happy to come and help us during tatemai (raising), it was nice to work with them, enjoy their company and give them a sense of what I have been doing with my life for the last decade.

kanawa tsugi assembly

The large adzed Larch beam looked better then expected once in place. Ooh, what a tongue twister.

adzed Larch

The budget on this project was fairly limited and I ended up shingling the roof by myself. Luckily the weather was mild last February not the usual bone chilling damp cold which we normally have in Flanders around that time. I was able to make good progress and cover the roof before I had to move on to different projects for the time being.

schaapskooi front

At the moment we are finishing some details and by the end of this month the walls will be plastered with wattle and daub. The plastering had to wait until spring since frost might destroy a freshly plastered wall.

schaapskooi back

By the end of the month we will organize a workshop to plaster this barn and Gerrit, a very experienced local timber framer and expert plasterer will teach a two day workshop. I will reveal more about this soon here on the Fabula Lignarius blog once we have worked out all the details.

So if you feel like getting dirty and do some satisfying work while you are at it, stay tuned and subscribe to the workshop. See y’all there.











Sumitsubo Pimpin’

The sumitsubo (ink pot and string line) is one of the three scared tools and one of my most beloved items in my toolbox. As a layout nerd I immediately had to intervene when I noticed that my sumitsubo wasn’t performing as I wanted. In front there is a small hole true where the inkline passes. Usually this has a small plastic knob to guide the line and withhold it from cutting into the surrounding wood. The plastic thing, which I never really liked anyway, broke in half and fell out. Wondering how to fix this I remembered that somewhere I had a nice piece of mother of pearl which I picked up from a beach at the Lost Coast in Northern California.

The next question was, where is somewhere? Groping about my toolboxes I found a thin piece of copper pipe that would make the perfect companion for the mother of pearl I was about to inlay.

Pimped sumitsubo

It came out pretty well and I added a secret ingredient to my ink pot that makes sure my line don’t splatter and are as fine as they can possibly be. At least as fine as the line itself.

I took the opportunity to renew the line while I was at it. Sumitsubo pimped, fine tuned and ready for another round of layout.

Kebiki Homebrewn

The other day I found some kebiki blades at the bottom of one of my toolboxes and since I am making a lot of furniture lately and doing al kinds of joinery I figured I could use some more. Kebiki are so handy and can save such a tremendous amount of time during layout especially if you have several and don’t have to keep changing the setting on them. Accuracy and consistency guaranteed.

Back in the days carpenters used to make many of their own tools especially those that are made or could be made almost entirely of wood. Kebiki (scribing gauges) are the perfect example of such a tool. Of course you can buy really well made kebiki made by a reputed craftsman, but there are plenty of reasons to make them yourself. They are cheap, quickly made, you don’t have to wait months after you placed an order and you can customize them to your current project and personal preferences.

I was always told that kebiki are not a carpenters but a joiners tool. This makes sense because carpenters often deal with irregular shaped timbers and if you use centerline layout as we do in the Japanese tradition there is little use for a layout tool that uses the edge of the piece as a reference. If however you use perfectly dimensioned pieces, well seasoned and unlikely to warp or move you actually could use them.

Below are some examples of the ones I bought and love to use. The quality of their blades is very good and they are easy to sharpen, scribing with a dull blade or a nail as you see in some scribing gauges will make inaccurate marks which defeats the whole purpose of this layout tool.

Kenshirou and Matui kebiki

The one on the left has a double blade and is made by Kinshirou the one on the right is extremely accurate to 1/20 of a bu or half a rin and is great if you need to adjust the setting often. (10 bu = 1 sun = 0.1 shaku)

I had some scraps of Ironwood and Ebony floating around the shop and spend an evening carving these kebiki.

Ironwood Ebony kebiki

The large one which is ideal for scribing large timbers and can be easily used to split thin boards. Indeed splitting boards, very fast and accurate.. And we love fast and accurate. Note the curved bottom of the fence which greatly aids it’s ease of use.

Large kebiki

They’re style is classic, nothing special or fancy just the way I prefer it. I hope you copy them and if you have not incorporated these tools in your workflow you are missing out on one of the most efficient woodworking tools. In that case there is no time to waste and you should add them to your arsenal today.

Just a couple more notes. Make sure that the groove in the beam that will receive the blade is slightly angled so that the blade pulls itself into the fence during use. If the blades is tilted the other way, even the slightest bit, the kebiki will ride itself away from the fence. It just won’t work.

You can make your blade from any piece of sharpenable steel you have laying around. Whatever you can find will work. An old bandsaw blade or replaceable saw blade which you are about to retire will work just fine.