Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Design, design, design

The second part of this project is the building, beyond the little barnini, of a house, a building that will look out on the barn.  This is the first post on the second project.  My goal will be to photograph and catalogue the design and building process.

Over the past five years, house design has been pushing its way into my little brain.  And what has emerged through all of the various plans is the following.  First, make it small, not tiny house movement small, but within the 900-1200 square foot range.  Second, build simple: nothing fancy in the roof lines, and no massive spans.  Third, build out of how you live: my wife and I spend the bulk of our time sitting in some extra chairs in our dining area. This needs to be replicated.  Fourth, build a simple guest house that can be shut down when there are no visitors. Fifth, live outside when you can: plenty of porches.

Out of this has come literally thousands of iterations of house plans.  At this point in time, this is the one.  It's a 20 x 22 box with some shed roofs off the side to create a little more space. The two sheds allow for the dining area and the living room.  It's 1052 square feet, and it should be able to be heated, as the saying goes, with a hair dryer.  What is not outlined on the plan are the porches, of which there are many.

It has 1.5 baths and one bedroom.  A full basement will allow for an extra bedroom and bath downstairs if needed.

The upstairs is built with 54 inch knee walls, enough height to allow for access to the edges of the rooms, but still give a sense of a cottage.  It has a large bathroom, two walk-in closets, and a laundry room at the top of the stairs.

We are waiting for our current house to sell before we get started.  The design is still in the works, but it continues to get closer.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Moving Inside

The dark spots are thin layers of ice from outside storage.
Today, the interior started.  It was 16 degrees outside when the work began, a temperature that undermines the longevity of the trustee battery saw, so I reserved the saw use to 45 degree angle cuts and used a hand saw for the right angles.

The first step was to make sure the necessary nailers were in place, and for the first time, I used a new 2 X 4 on the building.  This felt a little sacrilegious even though it would be fully encased and invisible, but it was available wood and so I went for it.  16 degree weather also helps prioritize convenience.  The photos depict the work completed in four hours. The good news is that the timbers will still be exposed, but this also creates a ton of extra cuts to work around the angle bracing.

I also made a few decorative pieces for the one exterior wall that has some uninterrupted mass.  Originally, the wood used to make these was going to be for a piece of furniture.  I thought it was walnut, but as I milled it from its original three by seven stock, it quickly became apparent that it was heart pine impregnated with creosote.  Again, this piece came from the train station and was milled in the 1890's, so it had been sitting, absorbing the creosote all the way through its girth for 123 years.  Creosote is nasty stuff; clearly the furniture option was out, so I quickly banged out some shapes to break up the wall.

All in all, a good start to what will be a lengthy process.  The wood interior will be nice for creating tool storage inside the barn.  I'll need to think carefully about interior layout to maximize the small space.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sliding into the Future

The barn needed a sliding door, and so a little research revealed some high end prices and searches on ebay and other sites revealed some really high pricing on the used versions.  Apparently, sliding doors are hot in the hipster community or something, and the rusty old items have been moved from the category of used into the category of vintage.  So two hundred bucks for sliding mechanism emerged as the established price.  The ones at places like Tractor Supply cost well upwards of two hundred, so I looked for another solution.

At this point, I have 418 dollars in the building. (Mr. Money Mustache would be proud)  The sliding door added approximately two dollars.  I say approximately because I had a few large hooks around, and I must have paid for them at some point.  My neighbor Fred gave me a 7/8 inch steel bar.  It was a tensioning mechanism on an old barn that had fallen down on his property years ago.  So I cut the bar to length, which gave me the added benefit of a workout as I had to use a relatively dull hacksaw on the thing.  I mounted the bar 2 and 3/4 inches off the wall with some wooden mounts (see Will I Never Learn ) .  I used two hooks on the top of the door and checked if it worked.  It slid with ease, but it produced a "nails on the blackboard" screech that would assure that I'd never want to open it.  This was solved, no problem, with a little grease, and now I have a quiet slider for two bucks and some labor of love. I assume I'll have to grease it once a year or so, but I can live with that.  The open hooks allow me to remove the door if ever needed. ( It only weighs about 50 pounds.)  This will be nice when I go to paint it next year.

The one engineering trick that worked was to support the bar in the middle while allowing the door to slide completely open.  I did this by mounting the hooks at the ends of the door.  One hook is on one side of the center, the other is on the other.  When it slides, the center support acts as a stopper.  This eliminated the half inch or so of sag that was generated by the weight of the door.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So close!

 Today I finished almost all of the exterior.  There are a few tidbits left, including the bottom six inches if each corner, but the bulk of it is done.  Now is time to get to the inside.

I also am working on a design for some lighting using some one inch deck lights that are charged by a little solar panel.  I have a few old burls around that will make some nice housings.

Will I never learn? POS Repair

So there are many times in my life when I'm pressed for time and want to get things done. The frequent outcome is some piece of shoddy work that I will feel bad about every time I look at it.  This was the case with the sliding door for the little beasty building. I had limited time to work, and I was so focused on functionality that aesthetics simply vanished.

So the outcome was a rough cut, ugly structure that worked, but just kept getting uglier with every glance.  Even my "cabin goggles" wouldn't work.  I tried to envision it as a utilitarian statement, but no go.  So I took today to try a different tact and had fun creating something that I like.

I had some 5" X 7" beams gathered from a friend's discard pile..  Free stuff and a little time goes a long way.

I had to thaw the beams in the kitchen sink to remove the snow and ice that had built up on them, and then I went to work with a circular saw, a grinder with a chain saw blade on it, and some patience.And ultimately I came up with some sculpted wood that has some character to it.  It's still unrefined, replete with tools marks, but it is more fitting for the building.

The next step was heading to the building site to put them in.  And I was quickly rewarded by the new look of the supports for the steel rod that carries the sliding door.
The cap that covers the sliding mechanism is temporary.  Still looking for a rough cut two by ten to take its place.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Too Cold to Work

When it's 8 degrees out and wildly windy, there are better things to do than work on the little building.  So a little pond hockey was in order.  Most of the ponds and lakes in the area are not frozen, but this one is.  The water depth is only about three feet and it's at around 2300 feet in elevation so it freezes early.  We shoveled for about thirty minutes and then played hockey for a few hours.  The photo is the departing shot at the end of the afternoon with Cascade Mountain in the background.

What was interesting about the day, beyond the normal beauty of playing hockey in such a setting, was the behavior of the ice, which had a great deal of flexibility to it.  It would compress one to two inches if two skaters were next to each other.  We ultimately attributed this to the conditions under the ice and under the water.  It is called "Mud Pond," and our assumption is that the mass of organic matter on the bottom was compressing, allowing the ice some space to move.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Buttoned Up!

It was my brother's birthday yesterday, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.  I actually remember the day in 1953.  I was four years old.  My father was teaching in Exeter, a prep school in NH, and we lived in an apartment in a building called Merril Hall.  I'm the youngest of four and my brother would have been turning eight.  I was standing in the kitchen and had one of those little spring loaded guns with the suction cups that stick so effectively to the smooth surface of a refrigerator when whetted correctly with saliva.  It was one of those moments in life when things change monumentally, and I knew it somehow at the time.  While I remember watching the assassination on TV, and I remember the iconic images from the funeral and other events, I most clearly remember the shift in perspective that happened towards the spring loaded gun, which was summarily removed from my hand and discarded with alacrity.

But I digress.  On my brother's birthday, and on the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, I went down to Keene in the midst of a very subtle rainfall and worked on the final siding of the little barn.  It is rumored that we are to get 4-6 inches of snow this weekend, so I felt even further motivated to get the building buttoned up.  And while there is nothing really new to convey on the process of building, there is on the emerging and complete sense of gratification that is starting to occur.  It's been a long process.  I think it's been three years since the idea first germinated with the tree blowing down, and I have about two full weeks of work in the building, spread out over a full year.  In reflecting back as well, the whole building seems like a gift.  The tree fell down on someone else's property and was freely given away.  Random people generously helped with the labor to get the tree in the lake.  The roofing lumber came from an old barn that got damaged by a flood during Irene.  It was sitting by the side of the road as I was driving by with my truck.  The windows were found at the dump.  The granite for the foundation was listed as free on craigslist less than a mile from my house.  The rough cut two by fours were from a renovation that was being done where I work. And lastly, the expensive part of the building, the siding and trim, emerged on craigslist for a 100 dollars.  The interesting thing on much of this was the timing of all of these things.  They seemed to fall in order as needed.  

The siding is now done.  The second gable end went smoothly.  It was highlighted by a recharging break.  I went to visit a friend of mine who is renovating a gorgeous barn.  He has power there, so I headed up and recharged my batteries for my saw, and hung out on some saw horses and visited and got the tour of his project which is exquisite.  It's a different scale at 33 feet by 20 something, but it's equally organic in process.  The recharge allowed me to get back and make the final forty cuts or so on the gable.  

I also had the opportunity, given the incoming snow, to re-stack much of the remaining wood from the train station.  This allowed for some needed consolidation and cleanliness, but it was a good two hours of work.  

The next step is to finish up the exterior trim.  This includes the ledger board around the building, the corner boards, and final window and door trim.  I also have to build a sliding mechanism for the main door, something that I assume will be fun.

As a side note, I got the first pond hockey of the year in on November 21.  Late afternoon from a friend. Two inches of ice on a shallow pond, and a whole lot of fun.  This is pretty early ice for around here.  No one went through, but the danger adds to the quality of the experience.
Leaving in the dark.  The stump on the wall ends up looking like a crawling lizard at times.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

First Gable End complete

Finally got down again today to finish off one of the gable ends. It was 10 degrees when I started and then warmed to a balmy 35 or so by the afternoon. So going up and down a ladder was a good thing at 8:30 AM.  It's been a really nice slow process.  Lots of cuts.  The window trim is old siding from the train station. I'll end up painting it in place in the future.  I'm using it for the vertical trim on the corners as well and for a splash plate at the bottom of the building.  So far I'm happy with the way it's emerging.  I'm excited to take some pictures in good light.  I always seem to wait until the sun is going down at the end of the day to pull the camera out.  Maybe tomorrow.

At the end of the day, I finally cleaned up all the cut and discarded wood.  The siding created an outlandish amount of scrap.  Went home and burned the whole lot in a nice evening blaze outside in the field.  

Over the last week, I got all of the wood moved from the old train station source.  I've sided 95% of the building, and I still have stacks and stacks of wood remaining.  I believe I've used 40% of the total.  Seems like 100 dollars well spent.  At this point, I have about 410 dollars into the building.  To the best of my knowledge, that should be the total.  It's especially good given the fact that I have about 600 square feet of clear douglas fir left over for flooring in the house, and about 1000 square feet of tongue and groove left over to finish the interior of the barn.  

Given the value of the remaining flooring, this may well be a cash positive barn.  I spent 410 bucks on it and have 1200 dollars of material left over.  I think Henry David Thoreau may have overspent on Walden.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day Siding

Every time I visit the little building I feel good.  And the progress continues.  This morning (Veterans Day), I went down and set up some sawhorses to finish one side.  I only have a few hours of battery life on the saw, so I've been working in short increments, but today I started to get the feel of what the building will look like. I worked up to the rafter tails on one side and got started on the door end of the building.  A little chain saw work was needed to clean up one of the main posts, but the rest went quite smoothly.  Now I'm getting the itch to finish it.  I may go after it this week, and try and get a full eight hours in, and just use a hand saw, or see if I can bum some power.  Regardless, it's getting close.

It's also interesting working with wood that was handled by carpenters 123 years ago.  Their writing is on the rough side.  Measurements like 56 4/5 are marked out in pencil in long looping handwriting.  I'm trying to keep as many of those visible on the outside of the building, but occasionally I'll have to discard one or two because of cracked wood or a section of rot or mold.  It's sort of cool to have some connection to the past like that.

I also am including a water color painting of the original train station that the wood came from.  I think I'll have to go to the local library to find a photo of the station, but the person I bought the wood from had this painting.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Siding is Starting

As early November arrives with occasional snow, it's time to side the building.  The materials have been found, and I started it yesterday.  It's an interesting process.  I'm putting the rough and unpainted side out. My assumption is that the paint contains lead, so I will box it in, and do both the interior and exterior in this same wood. Some of the wood is pine, and some is douglas fir, so the various textures are pretty.  I think I'm going to finish it with raw linseed oil to try and bring out the grain.

The bottom six inches will be pressure treated, and I wrapped tar paper around the first 36 inches of the building.  I have enough wood to also do the inside.  When all is done, it should emerge as a cute little structure.

The resin in the pine is still pungent.  Interesting.  It was milled 123 years ago and still smells fresh.