Last week was a bit different than usual. Because I had finished my box and only had one week left with Duncan it didn’t make sense to start a new project. Instead, he had me help him with the project he was working on, a tiny house for a client.
On Monday I helped Duncan make a prototype windowsill. We prepped the boards and cut them to size. Then Duncan gave me the task of hand planing them. When I was finished we used a dado blade on the table saw to take out a portion in the center of the back of the board. This is done so the board has the flexibility to twist, if needed, to fit flush against the wall. This is especially important for a tiny house built on a trailer on uneven ground with nothing to square to.
Next we went out to the tiny house to nail the boards around the window. There were a few spots Duncan needed to hand plane the wood down to get the boards to fit flush against the wall and the trim. Then he nailed them up. They looked very nice to me but the final judgment had to come from the client.
He gave it the a-okay so Tuesday I spent the day hand planing the rest of the boards. There was a huge stack that Duncan had already cut. I started by sharpening my plane blade. It went pretty well but I had to spend extra time on the polishing stone trying to get one very stubborn spot. Finally I had success and moved on to planing.
I was working away at my slow pace when Duncan came to join me for a bit. He moved so fast! So fast, so precise, and so fluid. I was a snail in comparison. I decided to try it closer to his speed. It didn’t work out so well. So I slowed it down a little, but still faster than I had been going, and found a nice rhythm.
After doing several boards I could tell it was time to sharpen the blade again. It was hard for me to look at the blade to tell but I could feel it and sense it when I ran the plane over a board. It just didn’t feel right, and the boards weren’t getting as smooth as they should be. So I sharpened the blade again. I guess sharpening the blade twice in one day was a bit much for my body. My neck got sore, my fingers on one hand got really stiff and were hyperextending, and my ring finger on the hand that was holding the blade went numb. Duncan told me take a break and said that even he has days where he needs to take a break in the middle of sharpening. So I took a few minutes to rest then got back down on my knees to finish up. It was painful but I pressed on and got the blade nice and sharp and beautifully polished. When I went back to planing Duncan complimented me by saying, “you got the blade really sharp, the boards are really shiny.” My hard work paid off. By the end of the day I was really starting to get the hang of planing. I still wasn’t as fast and fluid as Duncan but I definitely improved. However my finger stayed numb for a week. I guess I will need to experiment and find a different way of holding the blade while sharpening.
After sharpening a plane blade and setting it into the plane you always want to test it. This way you can make sure your taking off the right amount, not too little not too much. Setting the plane blade is troublesome for me; I either have the blade too far out or too far in. When I tap it to get it in or out I end up tapping it too little or too much. I have a hard time finding just the right spot. Or at least I think so; whenever Duncan comes to help he usually says it’s fine. Some day I’ll get it.
For the rest of the week Duncan gave me a task that I would work on and figure out on my own; I was to finish putting plywood on the top of the wall in the bathroom where the shower was going. He briefly explained what I needed to do and gave me a few tips on how to do it and what tools to use. Then he showed me where to find the plywood and set me loose. I got to use the chop saw, the table saw, the jigsaw, and the hand plane. It was fun being responsible for a project and figuring it out mostly on my own.
The first piece I got in wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t perfect. Duncan gave me a few tips on how to make the next ones better and I followed them. Each piece got a little more accurate and I got a little more comfortable. The last one however, was a bit trickier having added elements. I got it most of the way done before the end of the day.
Friday was my last day with Duncan for now; I will be doing another month long internship with him in December though. It was a very nice relaxed day. We talked for a bit at the beginning as we always do, then I finished up the last tiny bit of my small task. It was slow going shaving down a little bit here and a little bit there until finally it fit. Of course it wasn’t as good as Duncan’s but it was pretty darn close.
Then I helped Duncan finish and hang the door for the bathroom. It is a simple sliding panel door made out of some of the excess tongue and groove flooring that was used for the loft. I got to use the jigsaw to cut the ends straight and help drill a hole for and screw in the rollers. Then we brought it into the house and hung it up. I think it will work well.
When we were done Duncan invited me back to the shop to have tea. He made matcha green tea and set out two kinds of biscuits to go with it. Duncan likes matcha tea best because you get to drink the whole tea leaf which has added health benefits.
We sat and dipped our biscuits in the tea while having nice discussions about everything. Duncan was really nice to talk to and had so many great words of wisdom and insights to share. I am really grateful to have worked with him; not only did I learn a lot in the field of woodworking and fine furniture making but through our discussions I learned a lot about life. I am really looking forward furthering my knowledge of both things when I go back in December.
In Japanese they say, “Ittekimasu” (I’ll go and come back).
For the next two months I will be doing another woodworking/furniture making internship with a man named Doug Adams so stay tuned.