Monday, 20 December 2010

8 months on...

The progress on this project hasn't been fast since we left after raising, but it's been deliberate and thoughtful, and the lack of haste and hurry shows in the quality of the build. The exposed frame was infilled with Hemcrete, leaving little trace of the woodwork outside, but exposing the entire structure internally. I'm currently making a staircase and landing to finish off the on completion.

Green Oak frame extension with Hipped Roof

We had to battle the elements erecting this hip roofed extension but apart from the discomfort of working in the rain, it went up really nicely. I like using this dragon tie detail to stiffen the corners of a structure; they give the hips such sure footings as well as adding a really pleasing internal aesthetic.

As always, its nice to see a finished frame clean and bare against a blue autumnal sky, but it's nicer to go back a few months later and see it all finished and looking like home. Again we worked alongside Poore and Sons of Truro on this sensitive extension to a characterful old home, and look forward to going back when they've finished to see the completed project.

A good new old fashionned barn

A busy few months since the end of summer, and several big projects now raised and finished. The Douglas Fir and Oak barn was raised by hand on a couple of glorious September days...cranes are great for the big heavy jobs, but its simple, safe and efficient to assemble a lighter frame like this using scaffold towers and manpower.

To a slightly fanatical timber framer, few things look finer than the simple detail of a nicely fitted jowl post/tie beam joint against a blue sky.
Think I should get out more...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Tools of the trade

One of things that initially appealed to me about green oak timber framing was the relatively small number tools needed to build, well anything really. With a framing square and adjustable bevel, a plumb bob, level and string line, a couple of chisels and saws, a drill and some augers, and good leather-faced mallet, you had all the equipment with which the medieval carpenters built the masterpieces of timber construction, many of which still stand today.
Times have changed, and we now have access to all manner of power tools which increase efficiency and reduce sweat, and enable construction carpentry to compete with other styles of building as economically viable. A fair investment is needed to set up even a small workshop like mine, I like the fact that you can still do an awful lot with very little!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

A good old fashioned barn

After a busy spring and summer building green oak timber framed extensions of different shapes and sizes around Cornwall, its quite nice to get back to making a good old fashioned barn/workshop. We started this is in the workshop last weekend, and although its largely built in local Douglas Fir, its nice to be working on a free standing frame that will be raised about 100 yards from the workshop. My back is certainly enjoying the change from hefting green oak beams around the yard!

Roseland Projects Completed

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Recently raised

This green oak timber frame went up at the end of last week, on one of those days when it poured down everywhere else, but somehow missed Falmouth. The client is updating and re-fitting this house, and wanted a fully glazed extension to make the most of the views out towards Carrick Roads.

The 6m tie beams in these king-post trusses weigh over 250 kgs, with a complete truss weighing over 550 kgs, so we hired this neat little spider crane from fellow framer Stefan Roux. When all folded away, it's no more than 650mm wide, so can be driven on its caterpillar tracks through doors and gate to help raise frames in the most awkward spaces.

Doesn't seem that long ago that we were cutting this in the workshop, laying up the frames in the horizontal, and scribing in each joint with a plumb bob to get a perfect fit regardless of the nature of the timber. All our green oak frames are laid up like this...its the only way of ensuring really good tight joinery and the massive structural integrity that goes with it, as well as making raising the frame a simple, fool-proof process.

Right on track?...

I took a break from green oak timber framing in May to help a friend work on his railway carriage. This old girl is about 130 years old apparently and made the long journey down from Suffolk earlier this spring...I think it used to operate on the Great Eastern Line. The story is that after the war, returning soldiers were often housed in decommissioned railway carriages, and over time these were extended to and became the core of a rambling, sprawling self improved home. There are about 9 layers of wallpaper inside this to suggest this was indeed the case.

Like so many things of the Victorian age, it was extremely well built; an oak carcass on a massive steel subframe, and then externally clad in teak sheets and trim. The bogeys and wheel sets are long gone, and the past 100+ years have taken their toll. However, the new owner is keen to preserve what's left and replace what's too far gone, so we spent some time cutting out and replacing rotten window sills, door frames, re-glazing throughout, and insulating and re-roofing. With a new set of doors, a woodburner, and many more months of tlc, there'll be life in the old girl yet.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

October Extension Revisited

After finishing the last frame on the Roseland, we went up the road a mile to where we raised these hipped roof trusses in late autumn last year. Credit to the Project Manager for his attention to details, and to the builders for making a fine job of the second fit work.

Its always so nice to revisit previous work and see it transformed from bare frame on a building site to a warmly atmospheric living space. Combine this with a freshly baked cake and good pot of coffee, and it capped a good week for us.

Roseland Garden Room

We've just raised this garden room frame, another project through architect Mark Datson, and working alongside Steve at C Poore & Sons builders. We've done enough jobs as a team now that we know all about each others processes and requirements, and can execute projects quickly and efficiently. Despite difficult access and indifferent weather, 2 of us raised this in a couple of days, after less than 3 weeks of cutting in the workshop.


A couple of weekends ago I went to see the Chantier Medeieval at Guedelon in Burgundy, where a 13th century chateau is being built using the materials, tools and techniques of the age. Work began in 1997, and they aim to be nearing completion around 2025, though in a way this is a project without end. Far from being an exercise in romantic Luddism, it's a remarkable insight into the ingenuity of master craftsmen in an age long before power tools, CAD and the hydraulic ram.

The ever increasing number of visitors to the site have allowed the project to become self-funding, and since all the materials are quarried, felled or dug from the site, the only real costs are labour. The infrastructure around the site is as authentic as the chateau itself, with the surrounding forest being dotted with the workshops, forges, sawpits and kilns of the tradesmen. A building site like no other, and well worth a visit. See for more details.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Grappling with CAD

I've always enjoyed doing pen and ink framing drawings but they are time consuming and limiting compared to the capabilities of modern CAD programs. Finally I've taken the time to get to grips with a simple but effective package, and am already finding how much easier it makes so many aspects of the pre-workshop stages. Customers get a clearer impression of what they're getting, builders and architects can visualise and discuss techincal details, and I save hours of time producing my drawings. Not such a luddite after all!

Cottage Extension and Link

We've just raised this Douglas Fir and Oak frame in perfect March sunshine. We cut it in the workshop over Christmas and New Year, but the builder was held up by the wintry weather in early Feb and so it sat in the corner for a while, waiting for a sunny break. It went up in a day and a half over the weekend and was definitely worth waiting for the weather window.

The oak curves tie in really nicely with the Douglas Fir frame, and although not as nice to work, the Douglas is a great cheaper alternative to using green oak, with excellent strength, longevity and local availabilty. It'll be externally clad in 400mm of Hemcrete, and roofed in slate, while the linkway will be weatherboarded with large glazed panels.