Introduction: Scribing Post to Stone - NOW WITH MORE SHOU SUGI BAN!
Scribing and carving a wooden post to fit a stone is an old art...really old… likely thousands of years old. It is a gorgeous way to support a building that likely meets no modern building code, despite the fact that the oldest standing timber structures use this method. The process is time consuming, can be frustrating, and is totally worth trying.
Do I want to build a giant structure that can stand for 2000 yrs? Of course I do, just like I want to build a castle. But, alas, lacking an army of serfs to do my bidding... my more reasonable wife suggested I start on a smaller scale.
So for this Instructable I tried my hand at scribing a single post to a totally uneven stone and then given it the Shou Sugi Ban treatment, with a flamethrower. In the end I have created a very good looking address post
OR as my wife so eloquently **snarkily** described it, "a very nice burnt log on a rock"
So read on!
Since this was for the hand tool only contest i have used... hand tools only. It would go way quicker with plug ins.
At a minimum you will need:
source of flame
Step 1: Seek and Ye Shall Find
Find a post and a stone.
I suggest a stone larger than the post. My first stone *shown above* would have been a bit much I think for a trial run. If you want the post to last, pick a stone that allows water to drain away from the post. My log was Pine cut this year, the stone was from a delivery of 100 Tons of stones that I was not quite expecting to be quite this big, but that’s a different story. I had a lot to choose from...
Step 2: Plumbob Squarelog
If you have your stone in its final location you are good to go. It doesn’t have to be oriented any specific way other than to allow water to drain away from the post. I was planning to move my stone later but the bottom was flat so I considered it easy enough to move and maintain the orientation. Stand your post upon the log and plumb it up. Look at the unsightly gaps! A peasant wouldn’t even use this abomination of a post. Not only is it ugly, it's also guaranteed to fall over at this point. That is a poor design for a structure.
I used stone chips from a previous project trying to carve a stone to log to wedge the post plumb. Most people would use a couple of staked 2x4’s to prop up the post,. 2x4’s would have been better. More on that later.
Mark the stone and post with some reference marks. You will need these later.
Step 3: So… You Can Make This If You’re Cheap
But I would probably buy one if you’re deciding to make a living doing this… You will need a scribe.
I took some scrap bamboo and created a sort of compass thing then taped a pencil to it. On top of this I used a tiny level I found on the garage floor. Was it pretty? Nooooo. Did it function? Certainly well enough for a couple posts, it isn’t the most durable thing though.
Step 4: Scribey Scribey
Take your makeshift scribe-like-object put the level on it.
Touch the pencil to the log and the lower compass part to the stone just below the log.
Now run it slowly around the perimeter of the log KEEPING THE BUBBLE LEVEL.
If you don’t keep the bubble level you might as well just eyeball the whole project. The level is what keeps it all inline and on the same plane. You are transferring all of the contours of the stone onto the log so the two fit together like they were made that way. This is where my granite shim idea was shown to be less ideal. I had to jump the scribe up over the stone chips to get it all the way around and then go back and freehand those couple spots – It was not the best.
Step 5: Power Tools, Where Art Thou?
Since this was for a “handtool” only instructable contest (VOTE FOR ME) I forbade myself the pleasure of wearing muffs and eyepro and covering myself in sawdust. Instead I relied on a chisel and hatchet for the grunt work. There are several steps here
1.) Chisel the penciled scribe line all the way around
2.) Chisel/hatchet all the wood off that’s below that line
3.) Continue to chisel and hatchet
4.) Do it some more
5.) A little more
So, its not the quickest process and I likely didn’t have the right hand tools. But it worked. I found that using my hatchet as a 3’’ chisel worked pretty well as long as I banged it hard enough with a sheleighly. (wooden mallet but more fun to say)
Once you get the wood cut from below the scribe line its time for fit check. It likely wont be good.
In my mind it fit like a glove first try.
Regardless you check and see what's getting in the way, then remove that. I used some charcoal on the stone to set the log down on the stone and see where the charcoal rubbed off, then I chopped and chiseled some more.
Step 6: If the Post Is Heavy, It Might Be Close Enough
This post was maybe 80lbs so it wasn’t terrible to move around, but it wasn’t fun either. After fit testing it 10 times I decided there’s no way I’m likely to do this for an entire building with posts twice as tall, by myself. At some point you have to say, this looks good enough. Unless you are a masochist this may be that point.
Step 7: Shou Piney Ban!
So, pine isn’t know for its great rot resistance. I decided I would go for a method of scorching the wood called Shou Sugi Ban (technically “burnt cedar board” I believe, so maybe this would have a different name?) Regardless the process seems to close up the wood pores and make it far more rot and insect resistant. Plus, it looks cool.
I tried with my soldering torch first. After 5 min I decided this job needed a "bigger hammer" and broke out the Weed Burner of Doom that lost me fire privileges when I was less than vigilant about a winter garden fire.
On a side note let me tell you, nothing puckers you up tighter than seeing a 40ft wide swath of fire move across your land. Regardless, I like to think we continue learning in life and I had a hose ready this time.
10 min of flamethrowery goodness and the log was sufficiently blacked.
Wire brush off the loose charcoally bits and you are good to go. I believe traditionally you now coat it with an oil/turpentine treatment but i don't have any so we shall see how it goes or i'll get to it later...when i build the 2000 yr house.
Step 8: A Hat and Some Accessories...
Since I figured the top of the pine log was going to rot if I didn’t do anything else I used some leftover flashing to create a hat over the endgrain. It was ugly brown aluminum flashing but a quick dusting of gold spray paint gave it a coppery look that I found appealing. I did the same to the house numbers and nailed them both on with copper nails.
Note, it appears copper nails need a hole premade or they become copper fish hooks.
Step 9: Final Placement and Some Notes on Shou Piney Ban
I cheated here and used my tractor to move the rock and log. Mostly because they are 400lbs together and I wasn’t looking forward to another MRI. Final placement and some adjustments and the address post is in place, plumb and sturdy. Yes, you could flying ninja kick it off the rock, but wind isn’t going to do it. Once scribed to the stone it sits quite solidly. If you put a house on it gravity will do the rest.
I’m pretty pleased with the look and practicality of my experiment. Is it perfect? No. Would I do it for a house? I'm still undecided on that, if so then it would be likely be on shorter piers vs full 8-10’ tall posts just to save my back.
I like the Shou Sugi Ban look, and its supposed to be very durable. I will say that it is not a clean process… I had a lovely coating of carbon from head to toe at the end of this project. In fact at the end I was so covered in soot that any photos of me would ruin my chances at a career in politics, or get me a job as a chimney sweep.
Regardless. Much like most of the other old school woodworking/stoneworking endeavors I have undertaken the process can be meditative, is a bit tedious, and is a good clue as to why ancient humans invented beer.
Participated in the
Hand Tools Only Challenge