Good morning

It’s Saturday morning here in western New York and I’m sitting in a cafe in Wegman’s supermarket enjoying a coffee and a blueberry muffin while I wait for my daughter Katie to finish cross-country practice. They have free wireless here, so it’s a thoroughly pleasant place to sit and blog. This wasn’t my first stop after dropping Katie off: I went to one of the local large home centers and bought 16 “premium” 2x4s for use in the spindles and bottom rails of my porch.

Bob's back porch

I put the word premium in quotes because anyone who has ever bought wood knows how much junk you need to go through to find the good straight pieces without chunks missing from them and not too many big knots. Last time I picked through wood I had my son William with me and I think it was a good learning experience for him. Given how he nails together the odds and ends in my workshop, I think he will be interested in carpentry and woodworking. This winter we plan to build him his own little bench in the corner of the shop. I think I conveyed to him the excitement of being able to look through a pallet of new wood that no one has had a chance to pick through before.

The top railings are in place and I need to finish putting on some of the molding around the post caps. After that I’ll cut the bottom rails. These will be 2x4s that I’ll shape on my table saw. First a word about 2x4s: they are not 2 by 4. They are actually 1 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. Why the disparity? The 2″ by 4″ dimensions refer to the size of the wood before it is dried and before it is planed to smooth (or relatively smooth, if you’ve ever seen a 2×4). Via Yahoo, I found an explanation of this here. Anyway, you have to take these real sizes into account. When you go to larger wood, such as a 2×12, you may see variation where the width varies from 11 3/8″ up to 11 5/8″. Don’t make assumptions about the size. Like everything in carpentry, measure two or three times before you cut.

It’s supposed to be a rainy weekend and so I’m not sure how much I’m going to get done outside. Inside, I’ll be working on my presentation for the United Nations, Part 5 of my Dr. ODF series, and cutting porch spindles. From each 8 foot long 2×4 I’ll be able to get six spindles. First I’ll cut the 2×4 into three lengths 32 inches long and then rip them down the middle. Then I’ll rip them to a finish width of 1 1/2 inches square. This part will go fairly quickly. Then I’ll chamfer each corner of the spindle to give it some shape and to take away some of the blockiness of the shape. “Chamfering” is using a router or some other tool to put a 45 degree angle bevel on a corner. It gives a very nice effect, especially when it stops and starts a few inches from each end. I did this on the posts and it came out well. Chamfering generates a tremendous amount of saw dust.

The sun is out now so I’m crossing my fingers that the rain we had yesterday and what is forecast for today will stay away. That way the porch will dry out and I’ll be able to get a few hours of work done. Hope you have a great weekend.

Next: “The porch, Ernesto, and me”


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