Some things are hard to find

Long story short, I was looking for a book on Japanese woodworking joints, one that showed dimensions, etc to practice some of my skills when not working on a specific project. Through a couple of different blogs I came across, including one called Labor Limae, that came up with something called Project Mayhem. As part of Project Mayhem (which in this case, it is OK to talk about it with the uninitiated), the author and a few others came up with the idea to try out several different Japanese Joinery techniques as a kind of online skills challenge. Anyways, one of the texts used for this project is called

WOOD JOINTS IN CLASSICAL JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE BY TORASHICHI SUMIYOSHI, GENGO MATSUI

Apparently it’s a pretty difficult book to find, especially the English version. But as it turns out, the book is still being published in Japan and if you can figure out amazon.co.jp, you can order a copy. I decided to give this a try. You can give it a whirl yourself by clicking here. Google Translate comes in handy.

The book itself costs about $20 and the shipping is around $7. What surprised me the most was that I ordered it on Wednesday and two days later it showed up at my house. From Nagoya, Japan. Do they have vacuum tubes now that go around the planet?

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If one looks hard enough, you can find a PDF of the English version but my guess is that it’s still in copyright and as a librarian, blah, blah, blah. But I figure if you buy the actual book, it’s OK to look at the English PDF version online to get the translation summaries of each joint. Otherwise, all the measurements are in mm and from there it’s off to the workshop.

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Shop Chalkboard

For some time now I’ve really wanted to get a chalkboard for the shop, a place to sketch out large-scale plans, measurements and just generally draw on a big wall type stuff. Call me old-fashioned but the plan was to get an actual piece of black slate. I figured that something would turn up from Craigslist or an old school being torn down but no dice. I’ve been looking for nearly 18 months and nada. But as fate would have it I was talking to my step-dad a month or so ago and he mentioned that he just happened to have few pieces of slate in the garage that he bought from his old parochial school when they tore it down over 40 years ago. And if I wanted I could have one of the pieces. The chunk I got is 3/8″ thick and 50″x60″. It is heavy. Loading into the truck and getting into the shop wasn’t too bad.

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I built a temporary frame using plywood and a foot cleat along with a ratchet strap to keep everything in place and channeling the ingenuity of the Ancient Egyptians I used 1 inch dowels to roll it across the floor. This was a one man job and the possibility of getting crushed was about 10% so I didn’t want to take any chances.

Also the warning label on the back politely reminded me of this.

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Note that the warning mentions using your car or wagon. Wagon. Anybody wanna guess a date on this thing?

So I handled with care and built a frame around the chalkboard using glue, screws, and lots of plywood. I designed a double french cleat on the back to attach it to the wall and decided on using 2 pedestals at the base to actually support the bulk of the weight with the french cleats keeping it affixed to the studs of the workshop.

Once the frame was constructed I had to figure out how to raise it up to it’s final height. Back to the Ancient Egyptians.

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By using several old fence pickets that I have lying around I was able to lift one corner, slide the fence picket in and then move to the other side and slide the other end of the picket under the frame. Each picket was about 1/2″ thick so this took about an hour. I moved slowly and carefully. Once up and hooked on the french cleats that were bolted to the wall earlier I  put some temporary pedestals in place.

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I didn’t fabricate the actual pedestals until the board was up so that I could make them fit perfectly under the frame to support it which took some fussing.

And here’s the final product.

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Turned out pretty good. Only problem….no chalk. So that’s next on the list.

Leveling Out

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One 8’ foot slab shaping up to be a coffee table/bench/etc that was warped, cupped and twisted. It’s been me and the fore plane dancing in the shop for the past week trying to level things out. A few more days and it’ll be ready to join.