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The more the blacksmith works his trade…

This week: The wrong kind of glue; I no longer trust advice!; The more the blacksmith works his trade…; Haircut time;

Sunrise over the Dinaric Alps, Dalmatia
Sunrise over the Dinaric Alps, Dalmatia

It’s been a busy week this week.

I had to go to Split on Thursday and caught the early ferry as usual.

Our regular large ferry is in for its annual maintenance, so we had the spare.

This is a much smaller open ferry with just minimal facilities. It is usually on the short inter-island routes, not the two hour journey from Stari Grad to Split.

The early ferry to Split.
The early ferry to Split.

It was 16º degrees on the Riva, warm enough to discard my sweater for a light zip top and to sample my first ice cream of the year. And very nice it was too!

First ice cream of 2023
First ice cream of 2023

Only the months of December and January are too cold here to eat ice cream…

The wrong kind of glue

Writing last week about the problems with the glue going off, my “glue” issues have continued this week.

Bad glue
When glue goes bad

On Monday morning I broke the seal on the packet of Cascamite and carefully followed the instructions, mixing 60 grams of glue with 30 grams of water.

I thought the mix didn’t feel right. The glue didn’t dissolve in the water as I expected, it was smooth, but just didn’t seem right.

With everything ready, I pasted glue onto the tenon joints and eased the first stringer into position.

It is a tight fit, so I needed to use a mallet to encourage it to seat properly, which it did.

However instead of seeing a little oozing of glue, it was opaque and was turning powdery.

Feeling some glue between my fingers, it just felt all wrong, so I pulled the stringer out again and cleaned the Cascamite off the various faces.

I have had the packet for about 5 years, and although there isn’t a “use by” date, and it has been kept sealed and stored properly, I think the glue has gone off with age.

Instead of setting firmly, as resin glues should, it has gone back to a powder.

I no longer trust advice!

Going into town I went to the builders merchants, on the hunt for another resin adhesive.

Of course they didn’t have any.

They did have cartridge style glues, including Liquid Nails, which is a brand most people will recognise.

Describing the project, I asked the staff what glue I needed for my stairs, bearing in mind they are load bearing.

They recommended a Pattex One for All clear glue. at €10 per tube. This was the most expensive in the place but they assured me it was the best.

I don’t know any carpenters here to ask what the local alternative to Cascamite is and I don’t trust the advice of the builders merchants when it comes to specialist materials.

Looking on the Pattex website, it says All in One can (my italics) be used for wood, but it is an all purpose material glue rather than a specialist product.

On Thursday I was in Split and called at Bauhaus for some odds and ends. There I found the specialist Pattex product for wood.

Two varieties of Pattex
The two varieties of Pattex

Whatever the name of your local DiY store, whether it is Leroy Merlin, B&Q, Home Depot, Bunnings or A N Other, they are able to carry far more lines and greater choice than small builders merchant on an island.

It would be nice to get the right advice though!

The more the blacksmith works his trade…

“the broader grow his thumbs”, goes the old English saying. This is alluding to near and not so near misses with the hammer.

I know how the blacksmith felt.

Bright and early on Friday I could be found in the Konoba getting ready to glue the two small stringers into the supporting beams.

I had done several trial fits, to make sure that the tenon pieces fitted each mortice. They did, but they were tight, perhaps a little tighter than necessary.

Trial fit of a stringer
Trial fit of a stringer

Together with having to get them into an already built 90º corner meant that I realised I would have to use some persuasion to get them into place.

Having spent hours on making the stringers, I didn’t want to bruise the pine (a softwood) so decided to use another engineering solution to help me.

With three pieced of offcuts and a “G-Clamp” I devised a way to get a flat surface on a sloping stringer, to allow me to use a mallet to knock them into place.

Engineering solution to sloping wood
Engineering solution to sloping wood

Next I used the applicator to put a bead of the wood glue onto the tenon joints and into the actual mortice holes.

The workable time for this glue was given in the instructions as 10 minutes at 15ºC. As the temperature was only around 10ºC, I knew I would have a little longer that that to work, although not that much.

Applying glue to all the faces
Applying glue to all the faces

The first stringer slid into place and with a mallet, I knocked it home. Excess glue was squeezed out of the joints and I wiped it off.

The easy stringer in place
The easy stringer in place

In most places there was just an imperceptible gap between the stringer and the post and beam.

I repeated the setup with the second stringer, although I knew this was going to be more difficult because of the tree trunk being used as the ceiling support beam.

Offering the stringer up, I could get it so far into both mortice holes, but my mallet wasn’t making much impression on knocking it home.

I brought out my 4 kg lump hammer to “encourage” the tenons to seat.

I could get the tenon neatly into the vertical post, but then it wouldn’t seat properly in the beam.

When I persuaded the tenon to seat in the beam, the tenon in the post moved.

While I was doing this “persuading” I managed to catch the end of my thumb with the lump hammer.

Yes it hurt, but didn’t break the skin, so not a direct hit!

Knocking the tenon into the post again, I used a frame clamp to hold it in place.

Then I did another “Heath-Robinson“, and used a ceiling support jack together with a hydraulic bottle jack to gently ease the top of the stringer to mate with the circular beam.

Heath-Robinson at work
Heath-Robinson at work

The gap is larger than I would have wished for, but there is more than 30mm of tenon now inside the mortice I had cut.

I need to leave it all now until Sunday, to make sure the glue has properly set.

Haircut time

Spring has well and truly arrived in Dol.

With the 10º C change in day time temperatures, new leaves are appearing together with the first blossom on my fruit trees.

Because of the rainy December and a cold January, together with other projects, I have rather neglected the orchards.

The buds are starting to swell on the grape vines, so it is time for their annual “hair cut”.

I am a member of a Facebook Fruit tree growers group and probably 90% of the questions are about pruning.

This is not just the “how” and “which bit”, but the “when” too.

This does confirm for me that pruning is definitely one of the dark arts of horticulture. Grafting is probably another.

On a beautiful warm and sunny spring morning, I set too.

Last year's vine leaders
Last year’s vine leaders

I have several varieties of table grapes. These are covering my Arbour.

The perennial wood is the thick, knarled stems. Last year’s growths are the thin, wiry verticals.

All the previous year’s growth is cut back to two buds and it will produce a new leader with fruit buds from these in the spring.

Another view of last year's growth
Another view of last year’s growth

Finishing the vines, I moved on to the apple and pear trees.

It looks as though I may have lost a couple of the apple trees. I will not be surprised because they were suffering in last year’s drought.

Elsewhere my single Hyacinths are now in flower. These are later than the Multiflora variety and are much more compact.

Compact Single Hyacinth
Compact Single Hyacinth

The Multiflora bloom earlier and longer and are still in flower too.

Long lasting Multiflora Hyacinth
Long lasting Multiflora Hyacinth

When I lifted some Crocus last autumn, I didn’t have a bed prepared for them, so I potted them up in a long tub.

They are in flower this week.

Yellow Crocus
Yellow Crocus

I will plant them in their permanent home in a few weeks time.

So it is going to be next week before I finish that stairs but the pruning is all done for another year.

However as another old saying goes, “Everything worth having is worth waiting for”. NCG

2 Responses

  1. Brian Homans

    One correction, Norman – there are NO months when it is too cold to eat ice cream!

  2. Marcy

    Norman, How very beautiful your flowers are. I love hyacinth and crocus. But all of them are lovely.
    And the stairs – wow! That is an amazing task. You are quite the craftsman.

    I sold my home and will be moving to Santa Maria, CA, on March 6th. I found a home there that I like and will close on it on March 13th. So far, so good. I was notified that the offer was accepted and I can move straight in when I get there. I will take some pictures of the incredible yard and flowers they have when I get there and send to you.

    It’s still cold here and I’m so ready to be over the snow and gone. Soon enough!

    Have a great week. Marcy