A pathway sign

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The pathway from the drive to my parents’ house is lined with wood chips. It looks nice and serves the purpose well, though as it’s commonly used around here as a garden bed cover, some people get confused where they’re supposed to walk. So my Mom wanted a sign pointing the way.

I had some scraps around the workshop, but nothing that had much character, so dilly-dallied over a couple of months, not really doing anything.

We recently went to stay with some friends in Devonport over a long weekend, and took a walk on the beach (stones and pebbles, not sand) where we came across a lot of driftwood. Here I found a couple of pieces that should do the job. One for the sign, and one as the post.

The idea with the sign was to cut out part of the face to make a flat area where an arrow could be placed, and be distinctive enough to look like it was there intentionally. The first cut wasn’t really deep enough, as I was concerned with leaving enough meat on the back for attaching to the post. After a second slice the result was more in line with what I had envisaged.

I’m not exactly sure what the timber is, but it cut and smelt a lot like Tasmanian Blackwood, and had a lovely dark colour too, so unless someone suggests something else, that’s where interest in the species will end.

To attach the post, I decided to do a tapered sliding dovetail (of sorts), which I’d not done before. It seemed like a good joint as it would tighten up with time and offer an opportunity to try something new. As the surface was really uneven, I didn’t bother marking, but rather balanced the sign in my hand to find its centre of mass, marked it, then free cut the walls.

Then it was a simple (in principle) matter of chopping out the waste with a chisel. The wood was damp in the middle, so didn’t want to chop out easily. Also, it took some trial and error to establish a surface that was parallel to the sign front as there was no edge to reference against. I got there in the end though.

The post. Augh, the post. What a frustration that proved to be. I made several attempts to cut a matching “tail” to join with the sign, but every time I got close, it would break away and I’d have to start again. In the end after several attempts, as it got shorter and shorter, I concluded that the post had drifted for too many miles, and was at that stage in it’s life cycle where its only purpose was to continue to break down and feed the next generation of plants. I laid it gently to rest (threw it on the floor) and went looking for something else.

Good old pine studs to the rescue. It seems that no matter how little timber stock I have in the workshop, like cockroaches in Queensland, there is always a pine stud to be found. In order to get my angles for the tail, I used a bevel gauge and eyed the socket as close as I could before transferring it to the post end. First go, I got a nice strong “tail”. After a bit of trimming with a chisel and spokeshave it slotted in with a little persuasion. It may not look like there’s much meat in the sockets based on the photos, but I can assure you, there is plenty, and what is there is good solid wood.

I didn’t glue or nail/screw the sign together. I’m hoping that as the post expands (now that it’s living outside) they’ll grip nice and tightly together (even more so than now). Time will tell, and it can be easily rectified if required. I didn’t give it any sort of finish, opting to rather let it age gracefully.

Now I just needed to install it. I drove a star picket into the ground to which I screwed the post. Voilà!

August, 2019

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