From Tree to Something to See


Well, I’m heading home to Colorado for the summer by way of Brooklyn to visit Yann Guigere of Mokuchi Woodworking, which has given me some time to catch up on the last stuff I worked with Mark in Vermont.

The last bit of joinery I cut was a ramp for a deck, and it gave me the chance to use some of the Black Locust I sawed to boards at the beginning of my stay. The slope of the deck to the ground wasn’t enough to justify stairs, but the construction was similar, using wedged mortise and tenon and a sliding dovetail at the bottom of the stringers. I used a 6-3/4″ Makita planer to smooth and square the lumber prior to layout. God I need one of these machines! And I got to play around with a Hitachi hollow chisel beam mortise. The stringers I was mortising were too wide to seat the mortiser properly, so it ended up being faster to simply drill and chisel the mortises, but man, what a sweet machine.

This lumber made a bitch out of my disposable blade saws, by the way. I wouldn’t have been able to saw the tenons without some of Mark’s big ryoba nokogiri.


The stringers for the ramp were live edged, with a beautiful curve that really fit the naturalistic round timber element of the deck railing. Everything cut, of course, to a center line.


The locust was still very green, so I tried to cut the wedges extra long so they could be pounded in further as the wood dries, but also took the measure to back the joinery up with a few screws toed in on the inside in case someone failed to do so. I never seem to cut long enough wedges, in the future its a safer course to just make wedges several inches too long.


It would have been nice to attach the ramp with sliding dovetails to the rim joist of the deck, but the decking was already down so it was attached with your conventional hanger and screws, landing on some local stone for a floating foundation. A heavy coat of Linseed oil/pine tar/turpentine finished things off and will help control the drying now that its in the sun, and Mark helped me chisel the corners to round and touch up a few details.


We took a break at some point and went over to the neighbor who now owns the farm that was part of the property that Mark’s on, which has an enormous old timber frame dairy barn that is in places still sitting on a dry stone foundation. It had very workman like construction, no superfluous details, and it was great to see a timber structure hold up so well in wet Vermont.


Back over at the house we finished up the railing.


It was my intention when I first traveled to Vermont to help Mark cut the frame for his forge, but the universe is a funny place. And three months is only enough time to scratch the surface of saw making. I’m heading back to Colorado to take care of family and help my mother cut a small structure, keep her property development moving along as we permaculture the shit out of the place in the hope that it will help secure a sustainable future for friends and family. Being with Mark, a gentleman and a scholar, has changed how I approach my craft, in ways I am sure to still be contemplating for many months to come.

And, I left Mark with the beams of lumber for the forge frame stacked in the right order and ready for layout and joinery. My hope is to make it back out to Vermont in the near future and finish what we have started, and see this knowledge preserved for the next generation and beyond.

On another note, I’ve been drafting the fuigo plans based on Hirota’s fuigo, but have been unsure of the best way to present the material to people that want to make use of it. My free trial of Adobe that allowed me to make .pdf files has expired, so I would need to either publish a design thread with illustrations from sketchup, up simply make the Sketchup file available for download. I’d like to hear from people what would be the most useful format for a set of plans, please let me know.


Brought to you by a happy woodworker.

5 thoughts on “From Tree to Something to See”

  1. can’t you just print the plans? lateral, frontal and top view in scale 1:2 or real size even better, happy to buy a few of those. I particularly dislike everything sketchup or 3D like and I’m utterly useless at it. However anything will do and I’m already in debt for your previous plans. When the house is done I may give it a try with the fuigo.

    Finally, what a trip man. Thanks a lot for shared it with us and looking forward to see the continuation of it. Maybe even join for the next time if the gods and wife allow. Thanks!

  2. i think you could probably do both- link the download, and also point out important parts of the design. You’ve definitely helped me understand the design better in your past posts on box bellows.

    I personally would love the file. With the file, a reader can make and print plans with any scale and views they want, as well as explore the design in three-dimensional space, experiment with layout, import a figure to get an idea for proportions (though I think that’s only if the file is in an architectural template), etc.

    Well, in reality a reader is limited on scale based on how much paper and ink they have, but you get the idea.

    Glad you got this trip and thanks for sharing it!

    1. Good, I was thinking the same thing. The drawings really need a bit of explanation, and plus I’m drafting each piece individually so that the joinery is clear. I definitely wouldn’t mind drawing 1:2 by hand and having the drawings scanned for a more formal set of plans, I don’t really like Sketchup for 2D drafting because of how it handles groups and categories by default. I’ve been playing around with Solid Edge 2D, but its not intuitive at all and I don’t have the CAD experience to just pick it up. It would be great if you guys could be part of the team that raises the forge frame, I definitely want to make it back out to see this happen.

      Just had my lesson with Yann, what a great guy. I spent a couple hours afterward trying to write down everything he showed me so that I wouldn’t forget most of it, the guy really knows what he is talking about. About what you would expect if you cut your first frame at 21 years old. If I’m back out soon enough in the fall he hosts a KEZ that would be worth attending, maybe meet Jim Blauvelt who won the last one with a kanna he forged himself.

      1. In my very limited experience, that I’m grateful for, that I’ve been exposed to through public school:

        Sketchup: pretty durn good for messing about for free. Lessons are free, my little sister figured it out when she was 10. Can do some fancy work on there, from what I’ve seen.

        Autodesk Revit: has some annoying bits, it’s for architecture, but overall it’s really easy to create a model of a building with it. Starts three-dimensionally. Easier than inventor, my final project for Civil engineering and architecture is designing a dream house.

        Autodesk Inventor: most difficult I’ve used, but also the first I’ve used. A lot of subtleties. But man can some great technical work be done on it, such as working engine models. Meant for mechanical parts, so it’s probably the best fit for designing fuigo.

        I’m amazed at what’s going on in the world of technology, I’ve been thinking of saving up for a 3D printer. A device that prints out it’s own parts…just awesome. I just really hope no one accidentally creates sentient AI that then decides existence is painful and wishes to gain revenge on it’s creators.

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