Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sabbatical Day 15–More Building

My company, Red Gate software, has given me a 6 week sabbatical. I’m documenting the time with all the posts under a tag if you want to follow along.

I got up early, though not as early as day 9, to drive out to the Habitat build again. I’d volunteered again and this time arrived at 8:30, not 7:45. The same two supervisors were there, and as I walked up, they greeted me and put me to work. Not content to wait for the orientation lectures, I pulled out some ladders and was given caulking duty in all corners of a bedroom.

Not my best skill, but I worked at it, trying to seal each of the seams where the drywall comes together. It’s a small energy saver, providing some insulation and reducing drafts. As expected, I probably put too much in each corner bead, especially around the ceiling corners, but I got a complete room done.

Then it was painting. With about 12 or 13 volunteers, the idea was that we’d get three coats inside the house. I started cutting in spaces for primer, and then was pulled out to help unload new cabinets that would be installed the next week. Once those were stacked in a driveway, I was asked if I’d prefer inside or outside work. Outside for sure, with so many people and fumes, so I was given a task with a high school kid to un-pile the dirt in front and spread it around near the house. I filled in electrical trenches and then tried to build a slope down to the street.

Hard work, and working slow, but work that is simple and lets me think. Two or three others joined us and we soon had a 4 ft x 6 ft pile of dirt spread out. An early lunch where I was glad to sit in the car and rest for a few minutes. When we got back to it, most people went to put on the first coat of final paint and I helped with more dirt work and a few random jobs outside getting fascia cut and various tools and supplies moved around.

Near the end I could feel my back aching a bit, and slowed down. Around 3, everyone pitched in to do one last coat of paint, the third, inside the house. I cut in the kitchen and then rolled the walls. Not glamorous, not hard, and certainly not fun, but I did OK. Despite the low light, no complaints on my work. We knocked off at 4:15 and I was off to class.


Class was interesting. I got there early enough to sharpen a plane and flatten a mortising chisel. My first task was to flatten the edge of one of the aprons I’d cut last week. One was already square, but my band saw rip meant that the other apron had two flat sides (one by me, one by the planer) and two un-square and un-flat edges. At home I’d have run it on the jointer, but in class I needed to it by hand.

The edge was high on one side, but I couldn’t square it. I was working with just one bench dog, and a TA came by to show me how to secure it in the vise. I declined, saying I wanted to practice balancing the board. He laughed and walked away, and I struggled.

We had a break for another demo, where the instructor showed everyone again how to mark and chisel a mortise. I was the only one who’d gotten that far on Tuesday, so it was a bit of a boring lecture at times, but I did learn a few things I’d missed the first time, or hadn’t done Tues. After 45 min or so of watching, I headed back to the shop and finally managed to square the edge of my board. My iron was slightly tilted, so I was just planing the board on an angle. I managed to square it after a few tries and quickly squared the board.

Then it was mortise time. We were supposed to mark 5 lines and transfer them across the edge and get that approved. I did that first, but only 3 of mine were OK. That made sense as I was working with a utility blade and the bevel messed me up a bit.

I left that for a minute and chopped two more mortises. One was OK, one looked good until near the end when I managed to mis-set the chisel and hit it once before I realized. Not a good looking mistake, but one that would likely be covered by the shoulder of the tenon piece and wouldn’t affect fit much.


I got those chopped, laid out and transferred three more lines and took everything up for approval. I got good marks, though I realized that laying out a mortise one day and then potentially using a different chisel the next is bad. The instructor noticed and I could see where this is a problem. Relative measurements only work when you use the same tools.

I laid out and marked a third set of mortises, getting them chopped just before 9. The instructor thought those were my best, and I called it a night 20 minutes early. I was beat, so I packed up and headed home.

A long day, a very tiring day, but a good day. Helped lower someone’s mortgage for a house and built some chiseling skill.

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