Friday, 28 July 2017

Recently Raised Oak frame house in West Cornwall

We've just spent a long week raising the oak frame for this house near Camborne in West Cornwall, the culmination of several months hard work in the workshop. It's the biggest, most complete frame we've built, and it's a proud moment to stand back and see it erected. Architect Matt Robinson designed and drew the project, and there are some really nice features in much as I relish designing oak framed buildings myself, it's equally enjoyable to see what ideas other designers come up with.
i look forward to seeing this at the next stages of the build; plenty of layers to add, but the entire frame will remain visible from inside. I hope the build team get better weather than we've had over the last few days; Cornwall in July not so good recently!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Oak framed houses in Cornwall and Devon

   We've just finished raising this large oak framed house on the western edges of Dartmoor. It's an interesting build, something of a hybrid in the way that oak, masonry and steel are used together, but it actually makes perfect sense...using the right materials in the right area with regard to purpose, budget and aesthetic. The site is cut right into a steep slope, with a massively engineered 4m retaining wall holding the bank in place, so the rear wall of the house is a standard cavity block work wall. The focus of the property looks away from this, through a largely glazed western elevation, and out across fine views towards Brentor Church.
Being cut into a steep slope in this way makes getting a good photograph pretty tricky; you're either way above or way below the frame, and short of having photos taken from a drone, an image from the CAD program probably gives the best overall impression of this project. It's among the largest of the oak frames we've designed and built; although I had an architects proposal to work from, a large part of the general construction detailing came from our end. You can't effectively design and build an oak frame without careful attention to everything that interfaces with it, and I'm really pleased with how this one came out.

There's a nice cyclical story to the next large project we're undertaking. One of the first large oak framed buildings I worked on was the 4 bay barn/workshop shown below, built for Kimpton Moore near Camborne. Jamie Lovekin and I cut and raised the frame in 2004, and this was probably the first project that I really started to understand the complete process of traditional oak framing rather than just following Jamie's instructions.

Kimpton now runs Cornwall Hardwood Supplies  and has asked us to build the frame for the house that he and his wife have been patiently planning for several years. Lizard based Architect Matt Robinson has made a fine job of frame design and architectural detailing, and has constructed this 3D model to assist with the visualisation.

Kim himself is milling the English oak that we'll use to build the frame. Not many of our customers are in the position to be able to mill the timber for their own house, but Kim is ideally poised with his contacts in the industry to source and saw the 23 cubic metres of green oak needed for this project. We're about a third of the way through this already, and will need to stick to the schedule...the workshop diary is fairly full right through the summer, and I'm always mindful of the knock-on effects of falling behind with a project. Aiming for a raising in the second half of June, photos to follow once it's up!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Hand made solid oak staircases

These 2 oak staircases are now installed and completed, but the site isn't yet ready to take worthwhile photos, so 3D images from the CAD program will do for now. We're sometimes asked to make a set of stairs to complement heavy oak framing work elsewhere in the building, as was the case here. It's nice to have a break from working with huge oak beams and do a little lighter joinery, and the satisfaction of assembly and installation still gives the same buzz. We still use pegged mortice and tenon joinery in the newel posts, and hand cut all housings and pockets. The finished aesthetic here was modernised by using glass balustrades around the landings; we designed a housed fixing system that meant we could avoid using unsightly glazing clamps to secure the glass.

Looking forward to having photos of these to put up...I've added some other photos of staircases we've made below. Generally I prefer to finish them with a light protective oil, though the external sets are really best left to silver and weather naturally...even the best oils break down under the onslaught of UV and will start to look tired and neglected after a couple of years. Oak's natural durability means it doesn't need any protection outside; I only use oils and finishes internally where the UV isn't an issue, and fingerprints and household wear and tear can mark raw timber surfaces.

(My mentor Jamie Lovekin takes the credit for the above balcony and external was one of the early projects that I helped him with over 14 years ago.)

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A selection of Green Oak Porches

We're often asked to build oak porches, they come in all shapes and sizes and get attached to all types of property. It's nice to have smaller jobs like these to fit in around the large work; they use the same principles of pegged mortice and tenon construction to, and can be made in a wide range of styles.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Dovetailed Collars

Using a raised collar to tie the rafters together in an oak truss gives a greater sense of space and headroom than a lower tie beam, but across wider spans the loading on the oak pegs can get too much for the structural engineer's liking. We often use dovetailed joints in heavy oak framing, and this is a good example of clever yet simple, well tested timber design; used where many might reach for a steel strap and metal fastenings instead.

The wedged dovetail joint shown here works well in green oak, and in conjunction with 2 large oak pegs allows us to work over larger spans.
The dry oak wedge will need tapping in more as the green oak timbers dry and shrink over the years, but its a massively strong joint from day one.


We have also built a couple of wide span trusses in slightly smaller section kiln dried oak, which allow us to use this classic dovetailed collar joint. Here the 3" deep collar is housed into the 4" rafter, and the 2 are offset slightly to allow the nice stepped reveal. The engineer here insisted on using stainless bolts to hold the joint together, but the overall aesthetic is pleasing and gave a really secure brace to the rafters. It's a very different material to work with compared to green, unseasoned oak, but it's rather nice to know there's now no shrinkage to consider, and the joint will stay as tight as the day it was cut.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Fully Glazed Oak Sun Room

Nearly 18 months after we raised and glazed the main frame of this large oak extension in South Cornwall, (see here) we were asked back to add a fully glazed sun room to the front elevation. A fully glazed oak frame such as this requires a high level of careful detailing, with triple glazed units planted onto the green oak frame, and then secured with dry oak cover boards. Having the ability to model it in CAD, and then to build the structure in the workshop helped us hugely, and we could then pre-cut and assemble all the oak cover boards and copper flashing, making for a quick and efficient installation on site. We're really pleased with the end result, and the project as a whole is one I'm immensely proud of. Designing and detailing large projects such as this increases the scope of our operation significantly, and we're finding more of these challenging but rewarding specialist timber construction builds are coming our way.