Friday, December 4, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back from Peru

I am finally back from a month-long adventure in Peru. I saw some incredible architecture on my travels. Most of the cities were built in the colonial period and therefore resembled European cities in design, with a grid of streets surrounding a central plaza. There was not much timber construction (at least in the regions I visited) due to the scarcity of good strong trees so everything was built out of stone or adobe. It was really amazing to see large city buildings, built out of mud, that are almost 500 years old! The adobe construction often has a soothe stucco on the outside that gives it a finished look, but still retains the subtle organic form and curve of the mud bricks.
The architecture revolved around creating comfortable open courtyards where people could relax, sell goods, etc. with some privacy from the busy city streets. It is too bad that North Americans did not borrow some of these ideas when we built our cities. I think that my next house will have to have a courtyard in the center, although I might need a glass roof to deal with the northern climate.

     I noticed that most of the buildings had steel casement windows. This is a style that I have admired from the New England mill buildings and much of the Arts and Crafts architecture. In Peru, all of these windows were made locally in street-side shops out of readily available steel stock. Seeing this was all I needed to decide to build my own windows for my house. Now I have the flexability to make them any size I want, with my own layout of the panes. I already have enough antique glass in the rotten wood sashes that I have been saving to make the bay window and a box window over the kitchen counter.
     It has taken me a little while to get back into the swing of things, but I just ordered the pegs from Northcott Wood Turning and have put together a list of materials needed to build the walls. Expect to see some progress over the next few weeks!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Even more photos

My friend Annie Photographed the house raising on Sunday. She took some great photos (including the group shot in the post from Oct. 18th) which are on her blog. Check it out!

I will be away for the next three weeks so don't expect any new posts. Check back next month though for a flurry of activity as I finish and move into the house!

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Photos

Thank you Stephen for this sequence.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Raising Day

The raising was successful! A good group of almost twenty people showed up to help out on this cold snowy October day. After a hearty breakfast we all  jumped right into the project and before I knew it, the frame was standing! Disregarding the occasional fat tenon, everything fit together correctly and the raising went smoothly. I was worried that having this many people would be hard to manage, but everyone seemed to find a place to help out and we weren't bumping into each other too much: I am continually amazed at how much space 100 square feet actually is. Having this many people made quick work of what would have taken me forever by myself.

It is a huge relief for me to see this standing. Now I can relax a bit and move onto stage two: pegging and rough framing of the walls.

Thank you Seah, Theressa, CJ, Anna, Tom, James, Allison, Frank, Stephen, Kirk, Patricia, Pat, Annie, Bryan, Drew, Dillon, Jon and Dave for helping me out! Check back soon for more pictures.

Friday, October 16, 2009

House raising party- this Sunday, October 18th!

Rain or shine, ready or not, it's going to stand! Come by for a potluck brunch at 10, and then stick around to put the frame together at noon. Pound a peg, tote a timber or just come watch. Everyone is welcome. Please RSVP if you can make it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Folding spiral staircase/bookshelf/bureau

It is a given that I will need some sort of way up to the loft. Since it has to take up little space, I am basically limited to a ladder or a spiral staircase. Spiral staircases are nice and relatively space efficient, but one would still take up too much space in my house. Ladders are efficient, but boring. Here is a quick sketch of what I came up with to solve the problem.

The left hand picture shows what it might look like folded up. Some of the slots could have drawers for storage of clothes, while others can be left open for books.

The right hand picture shows how it will extend into a stair case. Each step is mounted on a pivot on its right side, and will interlock with the next step so that it can be opened and closed by moving only the top step. I will need to work out some sort of rope or gear mechanism to operate it.

The state of things.

The sill is together. The lower joists are in place (and they fit perfectly!). Knee braces are finished. As soon as I plane and re-cut the four plates, the frame will go up!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Slowly but surely

There is not too much news to report today, but I did manage to cut the four top plates. A good friend stopped by and help oil the finished beams. Now I'm down to rafters and joists.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm not sure of the origin of the snake, but it has guarded the dust pile for the duration of the project.
...not well enough though; the cats still prefer it to the litter box.

Lots of planing

Today I made a mountain of wood chips. In the process, I squared and dimensioned the remaining pile of timbers. These will become joists, plates and purlins.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Change of plans

Tonight I was going to spend the night planing, but due to a band practice across the room, I opted for a quieter activity. I spent about four hours cleaning, sharpening and adjusting my tools.

One of these things is not like the others...

This was the second wrong cut so far. I think I'm doing pretty well. I was told a proverb by a German friend: Wo gehobelt wir, da fallen Spane. I found more than one English translation, but this one made the most sense "where wood is chopped, splinters must fall".  As far as I can tell it has come to mean mistakes don't happen when work isn't being done.

In any case, it was nothing that couldn't be fixed with a couple of decking screws. It will be hidden anyway. What did people do before drywall screws and duct tape? Were there fewer mistakes?
The  braces are cut, but I need to find a band saw to scallop the underside. They will look much better with a little bit of a curve to them.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Posts and Ties

With only three solid days of work, I can finally see the raising happening in the near future. The posts and ties are all finished, which contained the most complicated joinery in the frame.
It has been a really enjoyable time, listening to music and audiobooks while making dust. I have had daily visits from the mail lady and UPS man to check on my progress. I also enjoy the baffled looks on the faces of the neighborhood kids as they try to imagine what I'm building.

Every time I sand and oil another piece, I get more excited. The oiled sticks look really great against the oak bunks, which is how they should look with the oak knee braces and floor.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Sketchup Models

This is my most recent model showing the siding that I'm going to use  and the actual window that I have. The bay window and door are just stock models, so they will be different on my house.
This should be a fairly accurate representation of the frame, although it is missing purlins.


I had a productive day finally! All of the difficult joinery on the posts is cut. The two internal posts are completely finished, sanded an oiled. It feels really good to have some pieces that are completely done, ready for raising day.
The next step is to cut the brace pockets in the posts and make the braces, ties and plates. After that, I can raise the frame! The rafters and joist can be cut and installed later.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I am sorry for my absence- my major project at the moment has been fixing a diesel Jetta that I have had in my basement for 8 months... way to long. I am sick of driving a gas guzzling truck around. I want my greasecar back! Anyway, it will be another week or so on that project, and then back to the house full time!
I picked up the floorboards a couple of weeks ago from Larry. The wood looks great, but it will need to be planed and edged. It should look amazing in the cabin though. I really like the look of random width flooring like this, and it will contrast 
the pine well. I planed one piece to see how it would look, and it came 
out nicer than I could have imagined. I was expecting Red Oak, but this piece was White oak, even nicer! It is stacked and stickered in another corner of the firehouse until I am ready for it. I dont know what I would do without this space (yet I am planning on moving into a space half the size of my bedroom?).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Knee braces and a floor

I made another trip out to Rutland this morning to pick up some oak stock from Larry. I am using oak for the knee braces to contrast the pine in the rest of the frame. While I was there he made me a deal on a stack of oak 1 by material for my floors. Slowly but surely, the pieces are coming together.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It has been another really busy week at work and I don't have much to speak of in terms of progress. After the weekend I should have much more time though, so check back to see the house take shape!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Here is a blog for another timberframed tiny house. This guy built his onto an old camper frame. 

Who says you can't have a house show in 100 square feet?

Also, most of one bent is standing!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A typical New England day

When I bought my first car in Massachusetts, I learned about "typical new england rust". Almost every advertisement for a car over eight years old has this in the description. It is passed off as something unimportant and unavoidable. I have learned that for a car, it is like being diagnosed with a terminal cancer and only a couple of years to live. Like "typical new england rust", we also have "typical new england days". Depending on the time of the year this phrase is used, it can mean anything from mud, fog, snow, slush, ice, flooding and anything else messy revolving around the weather. We have had a lot of these days this spring.

Because of the rain, work was cut short and I got to come home early. While drinking my third coffee of the morning and drooling over tools and building materials on craigslist, I stumbled across an add for a heavy duty, tandem axle trailer with an 8' x 12' bed. No mention of the dreaded "typical new england rust"! I spoke to the owner and by two o clock I was at his house checking it out, by three driving it home through the torrential rain, and at three thirty struggling to back it up the 20% grade hill that I live on.

I plan on building the frame of the house onto the trailer so that I am able to move it, and to avoid zoning laws. Because it is going to be so tall I will make the roof panels and rafters removable so that I can legally haul it on the road. It is not really going to be a mobile home and I don't plan on moving it too much, but since I have put so much work into this and am not ready to settle in any one area yet, I like the idea of having it be transportable.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The first joint

Today I fitted the first pieces together! With a little bit of paring with the chisel and a few authoritative blows with the mallet, the tong and fork joints slipped together beautifully! After so many months working on individual parts, this was a really satisfying moment. There are only three pieces of the sill together and already I am starting to place the wood stove and furniture into the meager footprint of my house, aranging them and planning out the internal design. I now have a good idea of the amount of space that I have to work with. Surprisingly, It seems bigger than I imagined it.
In all the excitement however, I managed to cut the last piece of the sill one foot too short. Measure twice, cut once. I called Larry- he will have a new timber cut for me by Friday. Not bad. Now I need to figure out something creative to do with the extra timber.

A funny thing happens at the end of a productive bout of work. I see it again and again working on projects with my dad, at school or at work. After a long day of work, everyone involved will sit back and gaze contently at the day's progress. For myself, there are often some thoughts of what needs to be done or what I could have done better, but these are dominated by the feeling of contentment and the vision of the finished project. After this momentous point, I have an even greater drive to finish. One more week of long hours at work and then I should have more time for my house.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Busy week at work

This week at work we have been erecting one of the houses we cut this winter. Working on site like this generally means long hours and exhausting work in the hot sun. Unfortunately I havn't had much energy left when I get home to work on my project. I did start cutting the first sticks though! The sills are now well on their way to being finished.

On the first day of cutting I learned that it takes an average of 58 strides to navigate from my work area to the fuse box in the basement. In the frenzy of putting together the stick list for the sawer, I mistakenly ordered 8"x8" stock instead of 6"x8" for the sills. 
I was just going to use the 8x8, but I changed my mind and decided that I would re-saw them myself. I want to reduce the weight and height of the house as much as possible, even if it is only two inches of wood. 
I borrowed one of the 13" circular saws from work to make the cut- "the good one" I was told. Like most of the tools in the shop, it looks like it took a tumble off a roof at some point in its long hard life. On this particular saw, one corner of the base is folded almost entirely back on itself and the blade leaves a lot to be desired.
The 13" saw can only cut to a depth of about 5", so in order to rip two inches off the 8x8s I had to make a cut from each side of the timber.
If the timber is square and the saw is true, the cuts meet in the middle. This is not an easy cut for saw to make and the condition of the blade and the fact that the pine is still green only compounded the difficulty. After about thirty seconds of labored cutting, the breaker tripped in the basement. I reset it and tried again.  After the fifth run to the basement, the switch on the saw actually fused itself shut and the saw wouldn't stop when I let go of the trigger. About half an hour with a philips screw driver an some emery cloth fixed this problem and I continued cutting. By the time I had finished the seventh run to the basement, I gave up on the saw and finished the last few inches with my freshly sharpened six-point hand saw. What a difference! After cleaning and squaring the cut with the planer, you couldn't even tell that I had made a mistake. Besides, now I have two nice 2x8s to use somewhere.

After all of this, I was ready to start marking and cutting the timber. I find laying out the joinery to be very relaxing and it was a welcome change from the rip cut. 
The process is simple: look at the drawing of the timber, draw each view on the respective face of the timber. Double check the measurements and the layout. Have someone else check them. Check them again yourself. Repeat ad nauseam before making any cuts. 

In this picture, I have already finished the layout and made the two long rip cuts which will form the fork end of a tong and fork joint at the corner of the sill.
 I have also cut the square mortice that will receive the post tenon. The tenon goes through both pieces of the sill, locking them together.

At work I have been using a power morticing machine to rough out mortices, but for this project I am using the old hand powered device in the picture. I was amazed that it took almost no effort to use and would cut a mortice in about the same amount of time as the electric machine. It is also much more pleasant to use since it is quiet and doesn't make fine dust.

After finishing the rough cuts, most of the joinery is finished with a chisel. A good chisel can pare a rough-cut face like this one right down to the line making it flat and smooth.

All four ends of the longer sills are now cut and finished. The next step is to lay out and cut the dovetail pockets for the floor joists.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A look back to the beginning

I was looking through one of my notebooks today when I stumbled across a sketch dated 10/4/07. It looks like my overall idea hasn't changed drastically, but my priorities have shifted. The porch was nixed and apparently I decided that a bigger kitchen was more important than having a bathroom. Cooking has definitely become more of a passion since then. Depending on its final location, an out-house could be built; but at this point I picture this house being close to a communal space where a bathroom could be used.
People have been moving into small cabins in the middle of the woods forever, however living in a rustic off-grid cabin in the city seems to be a novel idea (or at least new this decade). I like the idea of it being in the back yard of one of the many collective houses that seem to be springing up in cities everywhere. I would have the best of both worlds: the stimulation and excitement of living with people, and the privacy of my own house.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Selection Day

On Tuesday I finished planing the fifteen 6"x8" timbers which will become the posts, rafters and tie beams(more on planing later). I spread them all out so that I could select timbers for each location in the house. First, each stick is checked for a crown, which is marked with an X and a sweep, noted with an arrow. Rafters almost always want to be placed with the crown up so that the weight of the timber and roof will work to straighten it. Other members can be pushed and pulled into relative straightens by the rest of the structure.  
     Next, the ten footers were pulled aside for the posts. Luckily they are all relatively straight so I only had to place them based on appearance. The two pieces that have the best three sides were chosen for the center posts since they will have the most visibility. The corner posts obviously only show two sides, so I placed them such that uglier sides would be hidden against the walls. With the posts selected and labeled, I moved onto the remaining nine timbers. I need three nice straight tie beams- again I picked a really clean one for the center. The other two would have two hidden sides giving me another chance to hide ugly knots. The remaining six timbers will become rafters. I picked the straightest four for the gables so that I would not cause a bow
 in the wall and  I hid some more unsightly marks on what will be the roof and walls. It is amazing what you can get away with!
     Now that I have scribbled notes all over the timbers that I spent so much time meticulously planing, I am ready to move onto the next step; layout and cutting! This is going to start looking like something very soon.