Staining the second batch of ties

For the second batch of ties, I have learned a few things.

  • I need to stain the ties before I route out the notch for the rails
  • if I put a piece of wood behind the ties as I cut them, I will avoid the splinters on the back side due to the blade on the soft poplar wood
  • dipping the ties and then letting them dry without wiping them results in a better looking tie as it is consistent and very dark

So, I started the morning by building a jig on the saw that has a thick piece of wood on the fence and then my little odd shaped piece of wood for a stop. I cut four 3/8×3/8×36 inch square poplar dowels at a time and put them into a pile. The last piece always has the stupid SKU from Lowes that gums up the sander and so I separated it into a different pile.

Next, I took two poplar test pieces for the main rails and laid them on top of some old bricks that were pulled up from the patio and are just waiting to be buried or dumped. I then took 3 already routed and stained ties and put one on each end and one in the middle to separate the boards the exact spacing that the normal rails are. Finally, I took a six foot 1×2 poplar board on end and set it at the end of the ties to form a backer. This whole setup was done so that I could dip the ties, brush off the excess, and then lay the ties on the beams that were separated the exact amount for the normal beams. This setup is done because the beam will absorb some of the stain causing a light spot on each tie and I want the light spot to be exactly where I will route when cutting the notches in the tie.

Here is a picture of the newly stained ties on the bricks.

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It was about 85 degrees and dry so the ties seemed to dry enough that they aren’t sticky to the touch in about 4 hours. After letting them sit for 4 hours, I took them inside and laid them on the worktable with the light spot from the rails facing upwards. I separated each tie by a small amount for airflow to let them continue drying.

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After putting this first set on the work table, I then dipped and set another row of ties on the bricks. But, by the time I set these, the temperature had dropped to 75 and it was a bit more humid so the ties did not dry as fast. I let them sit outside till about 9pm and then took them in because it is suppose to rain tonight.

Laying the first curve

Late last night I figured out how I wanted to put the curves together near the bathroom door.  This is particularly critical because I only have 8 curves and if I damage any one of them, I have to set my jig back up and make another.  While not the end of the world, I would consider this a precious resource for the project.

So, I carefully measured, set the wood in place, and did everything I could to try to make sure that it was going to be correct.  I marked it and then cut the two curves that would make the 180 degree turn.  After cutting them, I took a deep breath, and tried them in place…and they fit!  Perfectly!  So, I then started the process of gluing the ties onto the curves.  Easy enough except that the curves have a bunch of cross members that keep the curve formed and they are irregularly spaced.

So, I had to change bits on the router and route out the center of a bunch of ties.  This is where the original set of ties came into play.  When I was creating the prototypes, I completely stained a bunch of ties before thinking about the issue with the stain preventing the glue from doing its job.  Well, these ties became useless because they wouldn’t stick to the glue.  Anyhow, since the stain didn’t penetrate more than 1/32 of an inch of the wood, I just routed out the center between the beam notches and now I have ties that will fit where the curves have cross members.

With everything ready, I laid the curve on the end of the table, got out the blocks and glue, and started laying the ties.  Everything worked perfectly.  I then took one of the identical curves and put it on top of the glued ties and put 40 pounds of weights on it to make sure everything was flat and that the ties were firmly pressed into the glue.

Here is a picture of one of the curves curing.

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And here are a couple of pictures of all 8 curves stacked to make sure that they were consistent.

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And, here is a picture of one of the curves in place near the bathroom door.

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While letting the second curve sit with weights, I laid down the rails for another six foot section and glued the cross members in place.