Today was my first real workday since the beginning of the year – today was the first day I did not feel like crap. So I have decided to assemble handrail (or a balustrade?) around the entrance to the attic, which was on my backlog for a few years by now.
I did not make the handrail, and I did not even pay the full price for it. I am not normally a difficult customer, I do not haggle, I pay on time and I am forgiving of a miss-hap here and then. But this is one of the instances when I really lost my patience. The carpenter did not object, he knew he screwed up. And when I was assembling the handrail today, I found out the screwed up even more than I knew. Initially, I was only angry about his inability to either keep a deadline or to inform me in advance that he needs a delay (which he got three times after he failed to show up). Today I found out that he did a poor job too.
For example, two screws holding the frame together had their heads twisted off and the whole thing was all wibbly-wobbly because there were huge gaps between the parts.
In addition to these gaps, the frame was not even properly square – not even close! The handrail was fixed 5 mm higher on one column than on the other, which was enough to be noticeable with the naked eye. So I had to glue-up the pre-drilled holes and make new ones.
That is not something a professional carpenter should demand to be paid for. As a professional, he has a fancy workshop full of tools that I can only dream of. Surely he has some long clamps that would allow him to screw the thing together without such huge gaps. Nevermind that fancy modern clamps are not even necessary, as I am going to show you.
You need a rope, a piece of wood and… and that’s it. You tie the rope loosely around two parts that are perpendicular to the desired force vector, as close to the joint as possible (in this case the column and the closest vertical bar in the frame). Then insert the piece of wood into the loop (in this case a hammer handle) and start twisting the rope until it tightens the joint together. For best result, the rope should be so long that you get a tight fix at just 1-2 full revolutions, less and you have poor control, more and the strands will be unevenly stressed.
When tightened to your desire, you can either hold or tie the piece of wood in position and screw the parts together.
Thus you can get a nice fit between the parts, without unseemly gaps that make the joint not only ugly but also unstable.
To give credit where it is due, I did not invent this trick. It is a centuries-old technique used, among other things, by ottoman bow-builders for getting a very tight bond between layers in their composite bows while the glue sets.
After I have spent one hour fixing the poor work, I needed two more hours to assemble the whole thing again and fix it in place.