My day in the shop, henceforth known as the great wood massacre of February 2017, did not go smoothly. All of my problems were of my own making however. I was working with an unfamiliar material (poplar) as well as an unfamiliar tool. To finish off the perfect recipe for disaster I changed one of my techniques. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I’ll start at the beginning. The goal today was simply to assemble the trestles. Add glue, knock in the legs and wedge them home. It should have been an easy, relaxing day in the shop. While my hide glue was heating up I cut the wedges for securing the legs. Here is my first error. Typically I cut short, fat wedges, but for some reason I went with a longer, thinner version. I have no idea why.
To drive the legs into their sockets, I typically use my ~16oz Japanese hammer, but my dad recently gave me a 2lb sledge and I wanted to give it a try. So I spread glue in the socket and on the tenon for the single leg of the first trestle. I drove it into place and everything went fine. Then I glued and installed the spindle between the pair of legs. With glue applied to all the surfaces I began driving the leg pair into their sockets. Everything felt good until the second to last hammer blow…it sounded a little off, but I went ahead and hit the other leg. That’s when the pair of legs went loose in their sockets. Uh, oh! (That’s the PG version). Sure enough, the top slab had split from each socket out to the end of the slab.
I felt a little sick, but examined the damage. With nothing to lose, I jumped in with an attempt to repair the slab. I first cut out a slice of wood that contained the split.
Then I cut and fit new pieces of poplar to fill the gaps. Then I glued and clamped them in place.
Trestle number 2 went together without incident
Trestle number 3 almost made it, but I split the slab at the single leg. Son of a b####! The same repair was made as before.
Trestle number 4 almost made it as well, but the last blow on the wedge of the last leg…I heard a horrible cracking sound.
Luckily I had the sense to make a couple of extra legs. So I prepped another leg.
To add insult to injury, I had, in a fit of anger, slammed the hammer into the slab top. Which left a pretty good donkey (jackass, in my case) mark.
So I fired up the iron and steamed almost all of it out.
Then turned off the lights in the shop before I did any more damage.
So what the heck happened? All of my previous staked projects were either laminations of SYP or plywood. A solid slab of poplar reacts differently than either of those. Using a heavier hammer made judging the progress of the tenon advancing into the socket hard to judge. The force of each blow was quite a bit more than those with my lighter hammer. Finally, my changing wedge shapes allowed the wedge to advance too deep into the tenon. Actually, I was lucky with most of them, they were thick enough to tighten before going too deep. The last wedge was slightly thinner and I paid the price.
Anyway, tomorrow is a new day. I’ll venture back into the shop and survey the carnage. Hopefully my repair attempts work out and I’ll be back on track.