Our technical section has been created to share our experiences and our personal
opinions about materials, systems, techniques, machinery but all in relation with our daily activities, please have a look at our randomly uploaded articles.
The beginning of a build:
Study, planning, finding ideas, techniques in how to create and build.
Since I started my apprenticeship with my master, I have been told that I will have to be able first to: Visualize what I was going to build in my mind. Then when able to do that, and later, to start to draw it in a piece of paper, in a reasonable scale, and later to be able to calculate all the lengths of all the pieces using long periodical tables, and also to know where in the real 3rd dimension those pieces were going to be fitted. And later, to know how to use the tools to cut all those pieces, but more importantly was to know what piece of wood was the better to be used for not wasting precious wood. That very first teaching from my master and years of following every move of him, every mark of a pencil he was doing, every stroke of that big framed saw, and the smoothness of the wood at every joint made by his ever sharp chisels... All that, and years of passion and practice, hard work and hard times have shaped and developed that very first lesson. See clearly in my mind what I was called to build. We as carpenters, we have a gift and the gift has to be passed down to the next generation. Knowledge is power, but knowledge kept for themselves is weakness and stops the success of the brotherhood.
Above Opening note from Ivan Zucconi speaking about his Master Walter
Wood as a Building material today, sustainability and environment.
This is a great place to add a tagline.
Beautiful Sweet chestnuts Glue laminated beams.
Excerpt from an interesting opinions exchange with a Swiss Master Carpenter
Today I would like to talk and comment about the use of the modern prefabricated multi laminated wooden beams, (Glue lam). Greatly used at the beginning, when they first appeared in our offices.
They were used as great span supporting beams. Then, later with the progress of industrialization, and the cheap import from the eastern European countries, they become the standard material for wooden structures for the many reasons you explain yourself so well in our discussion.
With this above being said, I do agree with you, and it can’t be otherwise if we think about the computerization of our blueprints and the complexity of its calculation. Wooden beams dimensions have to be precise. Another reason for adopting the use of this material (glue lam), is because of the growing incapacity of the sawmills in general to cut squared sections of wood on medium and great length.
The reason? Simply for the high operating speed of their horizontal saw blades !!! That lead to a more simple lack of skills, and competence !!!
However, and to stay on our discussion and going toward being more serious, I strongly believe in the interaction of our brain and our hand in the ancient art of Carpentry and in the science of engineering. Nowadays, between man and his work, I mean the drawing, (at any scale) and the resulting carpentry (at a later stage we call it the Master Piece) is now a machine (CAD, computers) which is your numerical master. A useless one, who take your place, is doing your job to save time and money! This machine is shaping the form of your blueprint. Then is taking your competence at a cheap price, it replaces you with its numerical language. Slave of technology, man in general is losing his self-respect and its confidence in a human world, following orders and instructions of a machine. We are simply destroying the inter-action between man and the world in which he is supposed to live. Slowly
numbers and machines are taking our job and our place, our rank, but worse, our honour in a consumer society. No future but the one of a numerical slave. But worse than that is the fact that there is
no place anymore for the Golden Number, the classic and divine Laws of Proportion, the 13 knots cord. No hierarchy, no order because the fundamental laws are forgotten, no respect for the wood which take years to grow. Sorry Ivan, Good Brother, but it is no more a carpenter world. Money, time, productivity... not for me, thank you. What did save me in the world ? The mastering of my science which gave me access to complex works and good relationship to certain circles who were still able to understand what I was trying to save and to build.
Above excerpt from a letter to Ivan Zucconi from Master Paul about an exchange of opinions.
Wood as a building material today, sustainability and environnement.
When nature was taking care of our wood for airing and drying.
Modern, industrially made glue lam Beams. Picture of Sweet chestnut glue laminated beams.
Wood today still without a doubt one of the best material available in our modern constructions. Obviously, it is very much depending on what application we want to use this old, and unique building material. For centuries, wood has been one of the very few materials, and has been treated as a great gift from mother nature. Carpenters, but not only them have been treating this material with great respect. They knew when to fell the trees for building purposes, and how to store it for a proper seasoning. They also knew when the wood was ready to be used. Time was all what they had, the time was the right one only when the wood was ready. Then, and only then, with great expertise they were taking care of the gift from mother nature. Today, great disrespect, no time, and first of all money are controlling the market of the timber industry. Profit above all, kiln dried super wood, quick as possible, and who cares about a properly seasoned piece of timber, who cares any more to protect the wood during the construction?
We currently see a great degrade in our ancient trade, and more and more we see that respect for the wood is going to a very low level. Personally I see jobs done by "workers" and with all the time that I take to watch this jobs, the greater is the pain. The pain to see our ability to produce masterpieces going to disappear very soon. I have had the chance to see the erection of a small house in the North of Scotland. A small timber frame house that have arrived as flat pack, I have watched this nowadays carpenters with big belts, loaded with all the gadgets and the most modern technology. They have assembled this poor house and left in a hurry. I have seen better jobs in my career, I see now hurry and cash grabs and who cares, no one can see it when is plaster boarded... So at the end is time and money that control our industry, and the "sustainability" of the forestry that provide our prime material. In all honesty I am not sure if this way is a sustainable way to go, I do not think so, but I am no expert in forestry management, we got highly graduated people at the elm of the forestry industry, and they know for sure that if we use 10, it is only when we replant 10 to be at least equal, but is not a guarantee to be sustainable. We just have to hope that what we take is at least managed and treated carefully and not wasted or even worse let to rot on a forestry track just because the value of the small load doesn't justify the cost of the transport.
Please have a look at: http//www.fsc-uk.org/
Sheeting and strengthening of a building. What's best ?
Very ecological but time-consuming strengthening of a building with boards.
This chapter is not that far away as a topic from the previous about wood and ecology. And again all the situations have to be taken into account and carefully planned for a balanced ecological result.
In this section we have the following applications: Structural, Barrier from the outer elements and
a material that is able to let out what has to go out, moisture. Finally, this material have to act as a rigid support to wind barriers / water repellent membranes and outer layer of the build. The best option will be to use solid timber boards, but here we have the never ending dilemma. Time... the time involved to complete a certain task. So, if we want a balance between money (Time) and environment, we will shift our choice towards natural fibres panels (Osb, Plywood, cement and wood fibres panels).
Today the market offer a good variety of panels for the strengthening of our buildings, however, they are not fully natural, and they are produced in factories that use a huge amount of energy, and those panels all come with bonding agents and most of the time those agents are not eco-friendly. Thankfully, today the bonding materials have come a long way, and they are less heavy in the amount of toxic chemicals that are added to the formulae. So at this stage we have only 2 options, fully natural solid boarding, preferably from FSC® suppliers or from man made boards. The difference will have to be decided in the price customers are prepared to pay to balance the gauge toward ecological and sustainable supply or to a less ecological but still made by a renewable sources, wood fibres, so panels are good but with an impact on the environment.
Selection of panels available today.
Insulations for timber frames, roofs and lofts. Natural against synthetics what's best?
This is a great place to add a tagline.
Nice example of different insulations available.
Insulations are one of the chapter that we can spend pages and pages to describe benefits and disadvantages of each type and kind. For sure and with the current situation with global warming and the environment challenges, the best will be to avoid synthetics materials as much as possible and to use some natural resources available on the market. However, sometimes there is no natural alternative to be used for a specific application, so we have to minimize the amount of these synthetics materials used. The challenges with the insulations are always related to one of the main issues, the warm side and the cold side and the amount needed to reach the values imposed by the regulations. Back in the 80s a typical roof in the Swiss alps was fitted with a mattress of 120 mm of glass wool, today it will be around 300 mm unless synthetic insulations are used, or if the more ecological compressed fibres panels from rock or glass will be used. So with that in mind there will be a saving in the thicknesses of the structures and obviously with less overall thickness of frames, roofs and floors materials it will end in less overall cost. However, saving is coming with a loss in other areas, the environment. We should try very hard to use more and more natural fibres, most of them coming from recycled materials or from sustainable sources and to use some products from animals like sheep wool. But the ones that design our homes, they should push and convince to avoid synthetics.
Please look up at : ISOVER | Saint-Gobain (saint-gobain.com) Or British Sheep's wool insulation made only in the UK - Thermafleece for nice information.
Vapour barriers the importance of doing it right.
This above was and still one of the best on the market. Isover Flamex N
Frost formation on a wooden truss above an improperly sealed crack in the ceiling vapour barrier.
When I was an apprentice, I have been warned about the vapour barriers, and told to: Do it right or nothing at all it's better...
It is very true. A badly done vapour barrier can cause so much damage to buildings that can lead to very costly repairs and customers upset. Today I can say that, having worked on many projects, I have seen that the vapour barrier is that part of a building that have very little considerations and attentions from contractors or employees that are working on fitting this very important materials, but not all are careless about. As stated above about "doing it right or not doing it at all", it's a very true statement, and has been proved right during the years. I do remember when we were going to do insulations jobs on wood constructions or, just to insulate some lofts, there was at the time no vapour barrier whatsoever. Just a blanket of glass wool (and she was the very nasty one), nothing else. But there were no fancy synthetic membranes above or outside of the cold side of this insulation. At the time there was the option of: 1) Nothing to stop water ingress form a leaky tile on the roof. 2) Pavaroof sheets of 3,2 mm in thickness made with compressed wood fibres. 3) Red wood shingles with a thickness of 1 mm or 4) Cement fibres sheets, 5 mm in thickness. The above materials were laid down directly above the roof trusses or joists, joint overlapped and that's it, so there were loads of Air circulation above the cold side of the insulations and with a less dens glass wool compared to the today one, moisture was very much free to travel to the outside environment with less noticeable dampness. Houses were less warm than today too. Finally, seems like I am talking about some dark Middle Ages but, houses were pretty much drafty, hardly double-glazed or with the very first ones, and not a lot of gaskets and gadget around. The houses were not like today, they were able to breathe more, so the condensation was less visible than today, apart from the wet windows of our bedrooms in the middle of the winter...
Then toward the end of the 80's the first aluminium foils and reinforced papers appeared...
Please click on the following link, its a very nice page about condensation.
Please look up at : Flammex N (isover.ch)
Weather barrier membranes, roofing membranes, today choices.
Stamisol ECO for roofing applications
Stamisol DW for harsh environment applications.
Very little in this section we can do to help the environment and the sustainability from the products we may plan to use. There are today very little known materials from natural sources that will serve the scope. Most of the materials today are synthetics based and developed to allow water particles (moisture) to pass through to the outside environment from a warm environment that it is normally found inside a building. Back in the 80s along bitumen based membranes, we had the very first synthetic materials or the so called pre-cursors of the today products. It has been found that they were causing very heavy damages to the inner warm section of the wood constructions, the issue was moisture, a lot of that. I have seen roofs that were rotten in a matter of 5 years due to the fact those very first membranes applied were acting like a sealed dome. The natural moisture that create inside a building from our daily life had no escape and was stagnating into the thermal insulation, I let you imagine the catastrophic outcome. Today, most but, not all the membranes are breathable. Today some firms still use bitumen membranes with all the associated problems. So a careful selection has to be made according to the scope of those membranes, roofing membranes, under cladding or just outer walls wind barriers etc will have to serve. In the membranes selections, and the later application, attention must be paid to joints and the sealing of members that are exiting a building (i.e. chimney flues, windows, and vents), most of the time, as experience tells me, those mentioned areas are the ones responsible for the product failure. Also, when using membranes for roofing application every screw or nail that goes through the counterbatten (if any) MUST be sealed by special gaskets. Obviously this last note do not apply to "scots roofs" where the membrane is simply stapled in top of the sarking boards and will be pierced many thousand times by the nails that secure the slates on to the roof. Our choice of excellence for all those membranes is to use Stamisol products, those membranes are coming from years of testing and usage in harsh alpine environment.
Please look up at : Facade breather membranes and roofing underlays Stamisol
Wood against steel, or both together? Who win? No one...
Same scope, different thicknesses.
Beautiful Swiss hockey arena made by glue lam beams.
Here is where carpenters and structural engineers will argue.
Both materials are good, and they can achieve very great results. My personal point of view is that you cannot compare the two at first, but both are good to be used and good-looking. It very much depend on the final product. We can build many big structures using wood but the dimension of the individual items forming a structure will vary and the wood will need more increased sizes to achieve the same load we can put on a piece of steel I beam. Have a look at the top picture here on the left, note the differences of the material thicknesses between the steel A frame compared to the Wood truss. No questions about it, steel can be "smaller" but not always the lighter one. On the two items of the picture the weight of the wood truss was very low compared to the steel A frame, but both can carry the same load. However, some structures will be out of character if they will be built with steel or vice versa. Also, some structures cannot be made by steel. For example, take a look at where the salt / grit that is used on our roads during the winter its stored, it cannot, well it's not advisable to be stored on structures made by steel. Those structures will be gone in no time by the effect of the acidic environment of the content. Yes someone will be arguing that we could technically store salt in a tin, but the tin will have to be coated with an agent that will keep the tin rust free. Is it worth it when you got a natural material like wood that is not affected by salt and corrosion? The simple answer is no, wood it's the best to be used in this particular situation.
Please, have a look at the bottom picture on the left. In there, you can see a beautiful example of a wooden structure, and let me say, it will not look as good if it was made by steel. I agree, some will say I am wrong, but it depends on points of view and practicality. However, wood is very much less affected by differential temperatures compared to steel, and on a Hockey Hall in the middle of the Swiss alps, where internal and external temperatures can be at extremes, structural engineers have opted to use wood. The same apply to many other halls I have seen, but I am proud to see the Hall of the picture on the left to be made by wood. To bring to and end this topic, I like both of the two but depend on the situation and the external factors and the final usage of any given building / structure.
Fixings, Nails, Screws, bolts and their evolution during the years. The advent of the Drills...
Definitely the future of fixings
Choices and ranges are today huge and cheap.
In this particular section, the most big evolution step have been done since the late 80s. Very well I remember to have been using 8,2 x 300 mm nails to put together heavy carpentry structures, also when boarding up roofs, all the nails (3,1 mm x 70 mm) were all hammered in by hand (hammer). Screws were all flat blade hand driven by screwdrivers. Here is where I do like the progress, it is so nice and precise to drive in big screws, but, there is a but. The drill... here is where money don't have to be saved, many cheap ones around... but they will soon "cook" under the huge torque they are required to deliver and also the batteries are making a huge difference too. Our advice is to invest a good amount of money on drills. At the end, with screws in general, time is really saved, and the strength of a 300 mm long screw to any directional force is huge. Other advantages of any piece secured by screws is that if you need to remove a joist for whatever reasons, no fuss, no damages, and in no time the screws are out. However, our old nails are far from finish, there still so many applications where the nails still our preferred fixing of choice and maybe the only one to be used. We all be arguing in discussing it, it is better a nail or a screw ? But we believe that a sensible thinking and a view of the final look using either methods, a good carpenter will choose the best option to use. But do not forget, there are not just nails and screws today, the amount and choice of fixings available in the building industry is massive and suppliers are very much competing to each other to come up with the best, the fast and the cheap product. Fixings market is also sometimes confusing, too much to choose from. Personally and if it is not required by a specific application or request, we tend to avoid fixings that rely on two chemical components, however sometimes they are the best but not always the cheapest. So, our advice is always to think at the final product, how does it look, and how will be looking if fixings are visible or not, does it require huge torsion, heavy side load, high pulling forces? So many situations that can lead to catastrophic and expensive repairs and for not to mention the company reputation. Our advice is to use good quality fixings, whatever they are, avoid buying cheap, there are reasons why a box of screws cost probably half compared to a good manufacturer. Our supplier of choice can be seen at the link below.
Please look up at :https://www.wurth.co.uk/
The advent of the web, Please welcome YouTube. Not really...
Where you learn how to...
Right, try to imagine being a seasoned Carpenter, not the best, not the worst, just a humble man that work and create "things" with wood. You keep a low profile, and you do your best to make customers say "wow". One day, one of your customers, after you have taken all the time to clearly explain what the next step could be and, according to my experience... Then, with happiness to have been told, that there is a solution, simple clear and economic, the customer leaves the site, and that's it. The next day, after the customer arrives at the site, you have to listen to a lecture, but I mean a lecture that I have never got it from my master, and from the same customer that the previous day, he could not even see on a drawing what the discussion was all about, so after listening to all that nonsense I kindly asked: Oh gosh, that its impressive, may I ask who told you all this? Answer, I have spent a few hours last night watching YouTube videos about it...
Right, after this above long story and my ranting, let me say that I love YouTube, I spend some hours watching it and sometimes I "pop" into the carpentry section where many videos title tells me: "Master carpenter trick that no one never told you" or " Best way to do"... and so on and on. You can find very good stuff on YouTube but also loads of rubbish that I will be ashamed to send out there. So, my advice is to have a look at YouTube and search for the topic you're looking for, some really good stuff, but be careful at judgement, read the comments, very often true professional comments back saying
" hey are you joking"?
YouTube is great, but it contains a lot of "bait clicks" as well.
You want to see a true carpenter that is one of my favourite on YouTube?
Please look up at :阿木爷爷榫卯打造一座木拱桥，全程无钉子，高手在民间 - YouTube
Let's talk about numbers, the very foundations of our craft.
Our old tables
This is one of my favourite topic in connection with Carpentry, but it is everywhere... it's mathematic.
Let's talk about before the arrival of the computer and, the later arrival of all the fancy CAD that are today very much helpful to anyone that need to draw and calculate most of the today objects, building, structures, bridges, etc. Before that, there was, white paper, scale ruler, angles squares, pencils and calculator. So let's go and look at our numbers, the ones we use today in the construction industry, have a look at the table that is shown on the picture here on the left, that is the excerpt of my tables that has been given to me the very first day when I joined my class at College. These tables are the foundation to calculate almost everything with a geometrical form, on 2 dimensions but also on 3 dimensions, it is the very basic way to calculate any form, our roofs, buildings, stairs etc. The very information that the today computers use to tell us that a beam is long X amount of mm, cm or mt. Anyone that have received the formation that I have received, he or she will recognize those tables straight away. He or she will be also being able to remember that the 1,4142 it's surely the most used number on those tables. We have been trained to calculate every single length of a piece of wood, any angle of a cut on a pitched structure and so on and on. I am so frustrated today to see people around on building sites that waste time and material in cutting "a model" or a template of any given piece of beam to try on to see if it fit. Looking at that I am asking myself why? We, as an industry, we should show to our customers that we work to very high standards. Everything can be calculated, marked and cut away from sites or down to the ground, and put it together up in the new roof, this will shorten very much the lengths of time that buildings require to be completed. It's all about numbers.
Pricing up a job, quotations and estimates.
Desk as a friend
This one is a must-know how to do it properly. To open up the topic about how to do it right the explanation is simple : Only time will teach you... Yes, it doesn't matter if you are a newbie or someone that has taken over from a father or an uncle etc. The time will arrive where you will be doing it on your own. No one will assist you and make you aware that on that position you are a bit "tight" with time, or you have underestimated how long it does take to do it etc. Pricing up it will go down in your skin, it will also sometimes hurt when at the end of the jobs, with all the material bills at hand, the time that the job have taken to complete, the various jobs that you just simply forgot about or the weather has been bad with you. Time will come where you will feel battered at the sight of those red negative figures on your calculator display. If now, someone will tell me "that has never happened to me". Sorry, but you are not telling the truth. It will happen but, use it as a lesson in making the next one better. First, you must know your job and very well, you must have some years of experience through all the fields of your sector. I personally call those mistakes school boy errors. The best answer to the question of how to do it is: Know your job inside out and know your people, if you got someone working for you. Take your desk time, work out exactly all the materials you need, ask your suppliers for the price and add whatever you may think is your margin over the materials, be aware, margins increase your overall price. Finally, here is the art of the pricing, know how long it takes, and how many people can do it, better 4 people for 1 week ? Or 3 people for a little longer but struggling? Here is where experience comes in. I have failed many times but only once on any given items. But not the second time I priced up for a similar job, because if not, that was meaning I did not take onboard the mistakes. Pricing is an art on his own, it's really a hard to learn job, but it comes with the business, and once you know how to do it, it's all fun. I could go so long about this topic, but I have to limit my article length and I like to say: Happy pricing. And finally if we acquire 25 ~30 % of the jobs we price up we are good at pricing, but then we need to be good at doing the job.
Old Traditions, old skills, old teaching.
This is one I really enjoyed. It was one to use the head, but It turns out so nice and with loads of personal and company satisfaction. It was a call like many others, a new customer that was not happy about the way the beginning of the extension was heading to. I got there, and it was very clear to me that things were not right, I mean not right to me and not right to the surrounding building and location. Well, the approved project was good, but only for who did the drawings, the structural drawings to be clear. Once again, as we can see today on building sites, there was an incredible amount of steel, and a structure that was not developed using the good common sense of: 1) Make the customer saving some money, 2) Make the head of the one behind the computer keyboard to think, 3) Use the good, old, and must be used golden number, the good old golden ratio. I am sure, today, many builders, carpenters, joiners or people that makes drawings to unaware customers, the golden ratio is unknown, or probably they never heard about it. It is not the young generation's faults, who have trained the new generation or the ones before them is at fault. We see our ancients secrets that were passed down for generations, slowly disappear and also old skills disappear. I can see that slowly, the customers will rely more and more on those highly trained operators of a machine that does the calculations for them. They just say no, it is a fail just because the computer program that makes the loads on a structure say that to them, fail... How sad is this. Well going back to my call-out, I did not like at all the wild amount of steel that was put on a very, very simple roof structure, in top of that, there was no ratio, no sense and no skill in all I was able to see. I straight away told the customer that there was no need for all that steel, and that an all timber option was for sure possible. I got back to my desk and I started thinking the good old way, paper, pencil and humble knowledge, and also the knowledge of the golden ratio or as we know the golden number. Not only that, but I quickly found the way to do this structure, and I did the load calculation to find the best beam to use, I had a good selection of dimension to use, but the golden ratio was my best helper, together with an eye on the total of cubic metres of timber to be used according to any given dimension. I draw up a quick sample for the customer to see if they were happy, and the answer was "delighted". The structural engineer that was responsible for the planning was not a happy person to see "his" vision to be surpassed by a more traditional, ecological, sustainable and cheaper option than his. He was then asked from the customer to validate my loads and dimensioning
for the local building control authority. I could have done it myself, I am allowed to do so but there was already one engineer in place and paid for, so he came back with his Numerical slave computer program thing that was passing some of my items, of course, the numerical machine could not fault my good old way to work out the loads, then one series of beam where at fail, but it was nice to see that the machine did not take in account the counterweight on some areas that I took in account. The happy ending was that a careful thinking, the knowledge of the materials, the knowledge of the golden ratio and the skill in how to join together pieces of wood that can together act as a counterweight to other areas, was the winning solution. At the end, the structure will be going to be build exactly as I firstly come up with so it will be nice, economic, sustainable and greener than a cold option that did not take in account the good old way to build. The same ways still work out perfect in 2021.
Old make that will never disappoint.
Mafell LS 103 at work making mortices.
Mafell ZK 115 Ec with 236 mm cutter head making Deep bird mouth.
Mafell ZK 115 Ec with standard 115 mm cutter making Deep bird mouth.
Mafell Mks 165
Mafell ZH 320
A small Lay out Hundegger Turbo Drive.
This is definitely the true Carpenter article for excellence.
Introducing, in these pages, the best ever maker of heavy, very heavy-duty machinery for our trade.
No need to mention that if a carpenter want to have a machine that last for his career and beyond, the choice of excellence can only be on those machines. And of course, the financial availability. Let me here do a bit of free advertise for MAFELL. The only true maker of Carpentry portable machines that in all my honesty it's all what a carpenter require to cut all of his pieces of timber.
We now require, first of all, to do a distinction between:
1) Big companies: They usually have huge amount of space (warehouses) to house all the today variation on the market of the very first Hundegger (see bottom picture on the left) and many millions of turnover to run those big machines that require to be "feed", and produce big amount of timber with all the cuts, notches, holes, mortices, tenons etc etc. All the operations are executed from a digital input. A machine that interface with a CAD that hold the blueprint of any given project, all those operations are carried out without the "man" and his portable machines. This companies today generally don't use the first and second method of wood working anymore or very little next to none.
Please see below Methods Note.
2) Normal and more traditional carpentry: They usually have less huge warehouses, fewer personnel, and they use a different approach to produce timber machined to the very last cut, notches etc etc. They still use the first and second method that has been recorded in our ancient trade.
Many centuries ago, our ancient craft started with very rudimental iron and copper tools, handsaw, chisels, planers, hammers etc etc, that was The first method known to do woodwork, all by hand. Then, many centuries after, The Second method arrived, the first machines. They were huge, big, noisy and heavy, very heavy and stationary, the very first were water driven through shafts connected to water mills, then later steam driven and latter electric driven. The design was to do only one job, one operation, one purpose per machine. Time passed, and they got smaller and lighter, even combined to be multi functions. That means within the same machine, different motors were added, more axis, more movable tables and heads to do more functions from the same stationary machine. Later, the arrival of the portable machines. They were able to drill, plane, rip and cut with a powerful 230 V motor. Then the big and to me sad revolution came with the Third method, the big huge machines that in one side the beams enter via rollers on conveyor tables, and they reappear some hundreds meters (depending on the machine) apart all cut, planed, and ready for packaging.
Now let's go back to the purpose of this article, the true Carpenter portable machines.
Let's talk about small companies that use portable tools and hand tools to craft and produce the very best and the finest of the beams to be later assembled on site as a roof, a bridge, a warehouse, a floor
or a staircase. Small companies "work around the beams" with portable, very powerful tools that makes all the necessary cuts, holes, notches to those big beams. Those beams are usually cut in "series" loaded on big saw horses when they are all the same in size or when the notches are all in the same position. They will be instead individually cut when they are all different in length, form, or shape.
This is why the above-mentioned MAFELL are the machines of excellence to do these operations. They are portable and powerful but also big and heavy compared to small professional or DIY portable machines. It will be unthinkable and uneconomical to cut those beams with small portable tools available to the general pubblic / trades. Sometimes, the complexity of the cuts is on 3 axis and powerful tools that can get there in one pass are the winner. Nice winning note to the traditional Carpenter that work with portable tools is that sometimes, the massive big computerized Hundegger's machines, in some corners that are so simple by hand, they cannot reach. So the manual, a little help from the old-fashioned man, is required.
Some general tradesman, or someone that is not from old trade Carpentry, will for sure put his eye on those big MAFELL'S. Most of them will run away in shock when the price tag is showed, I think there are no MAFELL'S below £3'000 (excluded the small portable one). I heard many says: I would love the MAFELL'S, but they are too expensive, not worth it. I would like to say they are the right price for a machine that (if used with the proper care and handling) will last the entire career, it will save you hundreds of hours of giggle about with tiny rip saw that are not going deeper than 80 mm and that they will cook the poor electric motor after few metres of cut. Yes, MAFELL'S are high-priced, but you can cut a beam of seasoned oak with a blade down to 185 mm, and you cannot push fast and hard enough to stop the electric motor power. Or you can plane down a beam with the portable planer with passes of over 3 mm in depth for 320 mm wide. MAFELL'S are the tools for the job, no matter what you put them in, they will do the job, and they will last a lifetime, just look after them properly, always nice and sharp blades / knifes / chains. Personally I am so proud that my son, the third generation of our family run business understood the good value those machines gives back in time saving, quality and the small amount of warehouse space they use once they are not in use.
Please for more information on MAFELL'S products and ranges visit the below site.
Step back and look !!! This is what i have been told when i was an apprentice.
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This is what i still enjoy to do after a work has been done or even during the execution that I think it may not look good. I always remember the words my Master was speaking, with me or even with an
already qualified ( but just qualified ) young carpenter. We were usually sent out on teams of 3. Master
carpenter, 1 young qualified carpenter and 1 apprentice. I was always with the same master and even today, many times I still do what we use to do togheter. We use to step back and look at what we did. I can still smell his stinky cigar, always with him, we were looking, moving around the building and looking at timber joints and roof profiles to check if they were looking right, straight or not twisted. He was training without me realising, that my eyes were told to look at what for a beginner there was nothing to see. I could not pick up the details until he was telling me or pointing exactly where to look.
Then eventually it was clear, I knew what he was checking up, I then knew what he was loking at.
Well, I still do it, with pleasure for my eyes and my heart, I do like to see things that have taken a shape under our hands. My Master passed away, but he still very much alive in my skills, his skills are mine and this is the hoop of life, it is a circle, something that is passed down to the next generation for the purpose of not going to be lost. Still, an old picture of our team on my desk stand proud on the roof.
What a beautiful way to be somewhere looking up at what you did. Step back and look!!!
Me, still stepping back and look
Dedicated to Walter on this day 28 09 2023
Who are we today? Where do we go? Should we step back and still look at the past or move on?
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This is strictly happening to me or to many others ? Where do we go once we reach a stage as a craftman or just as a man, as a person? Good question someone will be telling me. However, good masters always have a great selection of answers to answer back to a young person or to anyone that seek answers to important questions. I personally now have no answers to my question. In many different occasions, in the heat of some discussions with peers or with any other person, I have been told to let the past go, what it was cannot turn back, look forward, this and only this is the way i have been told, again. Well i cannot do that, it is something that stays with me, belongs to me, it is what have shaped me and made who I am today in the present. I now relate this article to Pure carpentry, nothing else than the good old way that have seen many many sunrises around the world, many beautiful structures that have been shaped with very simple tools driven by very skilled hands that in turn were driven by patience and a superior minds compared to the generations that nowadays populate the building sites. I do not know where to go to see some of these old skills that in turn were shaped because they have been learnt from a highly skilled person. This is why i would not like to let the past go. I am too much attached to the endless question of: Why we are what we are.? It is due to the respect to the elders, the ones that have seen before what i see today ? The paradox is that today I see what they have not seen. I see very little of that true, primitive knowledge that has been travelling over the many centuries. I see little knowledge of those past times and techniques, today they are all good to their eyes, sort of masters of what ? Masters that just join togheter an already square piece of wood trimmed to almost 90% of the times at 90 degrees ?. I feel almost alone in this modern world of timber construction here where I am based. I feel like I do not belong to this world anymore. I deeply respect anyone today that still marks, cut and fit in place even just a simple hip beam placed at 45 degrees after have been doing the calculations. That is the way, the heart, the soul of the past that still alive and that still pulsating into our hearts filled with pride and passion that has not been let go. Look forward and forget from where we coming ? To me it will be like having a picture like my one shown here on the left that slowly will be fading away, it will be like an empty past to me. Probably this is why I am
feeling the way I feel. I see that the modern market wants no more quality and pure art in place, the modern market wants all to be fast to be cheap and as many as possible and this is possible only when many pictures like mine on my desk have been set aside in an old box full of dust that the only purpose is to let's move on. I shared this above feeling with a colleague of mine, an old school carpenter from
Germany that the same as me it is frustrated in witnessing of sad premonitions of what is to come.
I think one day those good old times will be back, we cannot continue this way, but then it will be hard to restart the old way when, very few that use to keep the pictures as a remainder of what they are will be left and still around.
Probably the most important image to me.
Dedicated to all of us that feel the same