We’ve got everything milled, and it’s time to assemble the floor and see how it all weaves together. I’ll align the first board in each direction and see how they fit. It’s a good fit so I’ll start to glue.
So I’m dry fitting each joint to see if it works. And I can tweak the joints with a plane or a chisel if they don’t quite fit. Fitting and gluing the first row is the easy part. When you start to weave the pieces together, it’s going to get a lot harder.
I use a dead-blow mallet to close up tight joints so I don’t leave any marks. I’ve found a tight joint and will use my shoulder plane on its side to take about 1/32-in. off of the side of the dado. I’ll occasionally bevel the edge of the bottom dado with my chisel so it slides together easily. I also look for any humps in the dado that might stop the half-lap joints from coming down flush to each other.
The first row went well. Now I’m going to move into the hard part, which is to weave the boards through from the open end. Dry fitting the woven boards can be difficult, so I’m actually going to put glue on the joints first, hope it’s a great fit, and chisel the best I can as I go. As you slide the boards, they often get hung up on the lap joints, so you just have to work through it. Obviously, it gets tighter as you get closer to the starting point.
A warped board can also make it hard. I use bar clamps to pull stubborn boards into place. This is obviously not finesse work. You have to be as cautious as you can, but at the end of the day, you need to bring out the framer in you to put it together.
Given how hard this is, it’s wise to choose a wood that is flexible and can handle a little bit of tear-out. This would be much more challenging with a piece of finished maple, plus you would see any chip or tear-out forever. With the rustic nature of this heart pine, you can get away with a lot more.