Welcome to my blog, where a 30-something couple from the UK renovate and extend an old cottage, build some outbuildings, raise some hens and grow firewood trees and vegetables on our Acre in Hampshire. It's a bit like a smallholding but without too many animals, so we call it a homestead - living within our means, relying on ourselves and having a wonderful life!


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Oak Framing - Soleplates

Since the last update a fortnight ago, I have made more sawdust than in the rest of my life put together. Quite literally wheelie-bins full of the stuff.

Remember that big pile of oak that was due to be soleplates?

Mostly done!

The weather has been really good for December - I've only lost a day or two this month to rain. The original plan was to spend most of the winter in the workshop and emerge in the spring to do all this work, but the looming deadline of our late June wedding has encouraged me to press on.

The oak is a wonderful material to work with - I'm learning loads and have only made one small 25mm error which I should be able to rectify (or hide). I realise now how much I learned on the Oak Framing Course I attended in the late spring - there is no way I would have attempted this project otherwise...

There are some fairly complex joints (for an amateur anyway!) like this corner tie joint.

There will be an upright post sitting in a mortice on top of this joint, with an oak peg holding the whole lot together.

I bought a huge handheld planer, which cleans the saw marks perfectly and skims away any slight stains which the oak has picked up. It really shows the beauty of the wood as well.

I've done five complete bridle scarf joints as well - these took a lot of head scratching and double checking before I found the courage to cut the first one. Now I have some live models I can rattle them out in about an hour. I think I'm being a bit fussy about the finish and standard of the joints - but it is really satisfying when they close up tightly.

This is yet to be planed - which will clear up all the marks, stains and pencil lines, as well as improving the fit of the joint. These will also be draw pegged together. 

There is a big pile of braces which have been marked out with shoulders cut - but I'm saving these for when the winter weather inevitably arrives.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Oak Framing - The First Day

A really significant day this week - the first delivery of green oak* arrived from Venables Brothers, a sawmill in Shropshire.

A sight recap for new readers - we are building an oak framed barn of about 80 square meters in our garden, in which we are planning to host our wedding reception this coming June. After the wedding, it will be converted into a double garage, workshop and garden room. I'm building the whole thing - how many people get to build their own wedding reception venue?

I deliberately scheduled the delivery to arrive when I was at home - but Sod's Law kicked in and the wagon arrived before I was home. Kristy did a great job helping the driver offload everything...

That little pile doesn't look like much, but it this stuff is HEAVY. Green oak weighs approximately 1 ton per cubic metre, so even the very shortest lengths in this picture are about 35kg each. In all, I ordered 1.3 tonnes of oak, but the sawmill will oversupply if there is any doubt about the structural qualities of the timber - meaning we have more like two tonnes of oak here... For the next delivery I'll be hiring a fork lift truck - that order will contain five lengths that will weigh 300kg each!

A quick check of the order, and it was stacked in piles dependant on use - I have ordered enough to do all the soleplates (the oak that sits on the small brick walls at the building's perimeter), all the curved windbraces (or knees if you are a boatbuilder - to stop the structure racking under wind load) and the log store that will be closest to the house. They are stacked with air gaps all around to prevent fungal growth as the oak is stored.

These are the braces - cutting and shaping these will probably be the most labour-intensive part of the build...

These are all the soleplates - when I have cut the end joints and mortices ready to accept uprights, they will be fixed to the brick dwarf wall with stainless steel studs epoxyed into the concrete slab, with a damp proof membrane under them.

I also finished my sawhorses this week - I need to buy a bit more timber to make a fourth small horse, and I have two much taller horses which are the same height as my Superjaws clamping sawhorse.

The next post will contain some really exciting things - mostly sawing, mortising, cutting joints and making sawdust!

*not green in colour, but green as in unseasoned. The oak is sawn to size soon after the tree is cut, which has three effects - it is cheaper to buy than dried oak, it is MUCH easier to work, and it is still full of water and therefore HEAVY!