Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Tricky Cut

Today the project ran into its first challenge. The trick is to cut the pine boards so that they fit snugly against the angles and turns of the frame. If there is even the hint of a ragged edge or gap between paneling and window frame, I will be consumed with a full measure of self-loathing until the end of time.

I decide against power tools. To make this cut I will use a coping saw, a narrow sharp chisel and a jack plane. The boards are 3.5 inches wide, but the distance to the window frame, in the middle section of the board, is about 1.5 inch. At the top, where the window frame flares out, the width is less than half an inch. I could pull off the top piece of trim while fitting this piece, but that would be cheating, right?

I make two initial cuts into the pine with the coping saw, marking the very top and bottom of the part to be removed. Then I use the chisel to gently remove about 1.75 inches from the right side of the board, carefully, because pine is a soft wood that splits very easily. When this is done, I use the plane to smooth out an edge that matches the window frame. Next comes the tricky section at the top, and by this time I have about 30 minutes invested in the board. One wrong move and I will have to start over. I cut gently, gently away to create the curly part at the top, and now the board wiggles in my hand like a snake, threatening to snap apart. I give it a test in place but it doesn't quite fit. More delicate surgery with the chisel to smooth out the curves, test again, cut a little more, back and forth...

At times like these, when success or failure hangs by a thread, managers will quietly slip away to have coffee or take a nap and hide until the scary part is over, all the while pretending to be occupied with other, more important, matters. Here's Willow, pretending not to see the window frame. Instead, she stares into space and asks if I know where she left her Frisbee.

If, after the task is complete, things have gone well, managers call a meeting and pat themselves on the back. If things have not gone well, they become as innocent as children, amazed that such controversial and risky techniques would have been even considered. What were you thinking? they will ask.

Here's the final result. Not too bad. Unfortunately, in order to show the detail, we had to cut Willow out of the picture. I realize now that, with the prospect of a challenge, I approached this task with the wrong idea. Instead of fitting around the frame, I could have cut a notch into the frame and slipped the paneling into the notch. Well, I'll do this on the remaining 3 sides.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that a microscopic amount of wood filler was used, but only as a cosmetic.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! We stayed in a pine cabin up in Sea Ranch and it was lovely.