Last week I went on a road trip with Liam into Halifax. I’d discovered an old Steton Jointer/Planer for sale at a price to good to pass up. This is a 2 in one machine sporting a huge 15″ jointing table with an 8″ x 15″ capacity planer underneath.
To access the planer the jointer tables swing back and out of the way. It’s a brute of a machine and weighs well over 1200 lbs.
It was easy to load onto the trailer with a forklift, but once I got it home I didn’t have that luxury available. I took the whole unit apart piece by piece. This also gave me the opportunity to inspect everything and to see what needs replacing or repairing, which is usually inevitable with a machine of this age. There are several issues, some broken castings and worn out parts but with a bit of ingenuity and alterations this will become a central piece of equipment for the many tasks at hand in finishing our house. After that it can become a boat anchor.
As a craftsman I place a significant amount of value upon the various tools required to create things or provide services. Many tools are a basic necessity for my work, among them only a select few have intrinsic values bestowed upon them. Today two very special tools arrived in a wonderful Easter parcel sent by my mother. One is a small hand broad axe and the other a Latthammer. A Latthammer is the tradition style of hammer used in Germany by Carpenters, Joiners and Roofers. It has a square striking face while the other end sports a pointed spike. The spiked end is intended for various purposes such as maneuvering hard to grasp lumber and timbers, or as a steadying and climbing assistant around the building site.
This hammer and axe came into my possession on a rather sad note. My father passed very suddenly and unexpected in late January of this year. I feel fortunate that I was able to be at his side before he passed, and to be there to console my mother and siblings. While helping my mother to adjust and settle back into her new environment I discovered the axe and hammer carefully stowed in their respective places on the wall of my fathers work area. It is said that a smell or taste can evoke memories from ones childhood. Seeing the hammer hanging on the wall immediately brought to mind my fathers words and the image of his powerful hands deftly making the hammer sing as it drove nails into place.
Of these two items the hammer is most significant, my father brought this with him when he and my mother immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1961. It was the hammer used in building their house in the 70′s, a tool my father cherished and used with delight. He admired it’s quality and would proudly display the polished unmarred striking face which had driven countless thousands of nails through 5 decades of rigorous use. Seeing the hammer hang there I immediately envisioned a new purpose for it. Rather than become a dusty relic among the many other forlorn tools on my fathers wall it will be the hammer used in building our house this year. A fitting legacy bestowed upon a simple tool.
The axe brings to mind a different perspective of the tools on our family farm throughout my childhood. It is one of the countless tools acquired from the many small farm auctions that occurred throughout the 60′s and 70′s. A sad reminder to the demise of so many family farms at that time, the loss of a unique and sustainable lifestyle and the institution of mega-farms, quota’s and government intervention. This like so many other tools became an item used on a daily basis to accomplish specific tasks prevalent on a busy small farm. In some respects these tools were used somewhat inappropriately for their designed purposes however they did accomplish many task. This axe was designed to be used as a tool for finishing hewn timbers or other refined chopping tasks mainly involved in log and timber construction. On our farm it ended up being used as an all round chopping tool including making kindling, chopping wood, de-limbing trees and of late to help peel poles for my mothers trellises. The tools on our farm where always respected and well cared for, something that our father instilled upon us. I quickly rummaged through the old shed and found some appropriate tools for my mother to use as a replacement to this axe. This wonderful tool will become my right hand when I refine the timbers and logs for our house this summer.
I miss my father greatly, his appreciation of life, hard labors and deep love for his family are profoundly rooted within me. These tools are an Ode to his hard labors as he forged out an existence for his family amid the wilderness of central Alberta.
In loving memory of my Father …. Heinrich Krieger …. 1933 – 2013
The sap has started running in the Maples and the other hardwoods. Buds on most trees are starting to swell, showing promising signs that Spring is approaching.
At the building site bare patches of soil are starting to peek through however most of the site is still under two to three feet of hard crusty snow. The two piles of crushed stone and gravel have consolidated with a large snowdrift over the Winter and are just vaguely perceptible. Even with the grips of Winter still evident my thoughts and efforts have turned to “Stone”. As soon as the snow disappears I will begin the next phase of construction, the stonework for the house. The lower half of the house will be built with stones taken directly from the site. There will not be enough rock on site to complete the project so the remainder will be trucked in from a local quarry.
Stone is a prominent feature in many old barns and homes here and was used extensively for foundations and basement walls. In later years when concrete became readily available it fell to the wayside as a primary building material. In some cases only loose stones were piled up and interlocked, called the Dry Stone method, and in other instances a lime mortar was used to create very stable walls, many surviving 100 plus years of sustained use and still holding strong.
Making fresh Soy Milk for Silas is a daily activity, it’s much easier and cheaper than owning a cow and he loves drinking this.
Two bottles finished and more beans soaking for tomorrows batch. This soy milk is so much better than even the organic store bought stuff which has a ton of unhealthy additives.
Snow, snow and more snow, maybe later some rain if the weatherman is accurate. It’s pretty stuff but makes our move a bit more challenging.
Add a bit of wind to the snow and you get a supreme frosted look to your house.
Peeking through the trees along our driveway. I’ll miss the daily strolls through snow filled meadows and forest up here once we’ve move down to Middle River.
Once again the Once-ler has been up here on the Mountain wreaking havoc amongst the trees. The destruction has been somewhat more devastating and thorough this time, totally displacing and destroying a small Watershed and altering several other natural drainage’s. Adding insult to injury MacMillan Mountain Road has also sustained a major pummeling with the heavy equipment and trucks. It’s quite the obstacle course trying to avoid both potholes and large debris everywhere on the road. It definitely demonstrates that our public roads are a” Free for All” for these contractors with their “Hit and Run” method of forestry. The reprehensible fact is that the wood from this – and other clear-cuts of this nature- is destined for processing facilities that have FSC Certification.
The picture above demonstrates the complete disruption and upheaval that is created by the heavy equipment tearing through the forest. It will take many years before this tract of land is able to begin regenerating and once again sustain anything resembling a viable forest environment. The 4 foot wide ruts left by the tree skidder/forwarder have created deep murky, festering pools – up to four feet deep – in place of the natural seeps and runoffs that once contributed to the lower Rice Brook watershed. The debris on this lot is piled three, four and five feet deep in many places. How many years will this require to regenerate? This demonstrates one of the reasons why I am not a proponent for FSC certification and believe it to be a misleading farce at “Green-Washing” the public.
Santa is sure to find some good branches to put in this contractors stocking from this lot, along with the coal I hope he will get.
For a more thorough view of this woodlot you can preview a slideshow at this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/28959174@N06/sets/72157632211216898/show/
The last of the heavy framing is done for the shed/workshop, with the ridge and rafters firmly in place. I’ve made it a tradition throughout my career to fasten an evergreen bough to the ridge of my buildings once the rafters are all in place. “Topping Out” is a signal that the uppermost members of the structure are in place, all heavy framing is complete and most important the bough is a token of appreciation to the forest which provided the materials that went into creating the frame.
It has been the wettest September on record, greatly hampering the progress with construction. With fair weather yesterday and today I made quick work of placing the ridge beam and rafters. I pre-cut all the blocking that fastens the rafters to the ridge and top plate. Several hundred trips up and down the ladder and the rafters are up.
I’ve never been an advocate for “toe-nailing” any framing members when building a house. Toe-nailing is minimal at best, yet it is extensively used in modern construction. I always devise a method to properly nail any framing member in place, thus the blocking for the rafters.
This not only holds the pieces in place it also straightens out any twist it may have. With precisely cut blocks layout is extremely easy and once I fastened the final rafter in place I had less than a 1/16″ deviation in my final measurement. I know it’s not a cabinet I’m building but I aim to be within a sixteenth of an inch with all my rough construction.
It would have been nice to sheet the building in before roof assembly, however with pending rain I really want to get the roof in place. The rafters were notched so the sheeting will still slide into place properly sealing the walls top plates.
A large square looking box is emerging in the woods. The walls are up and ready to be sheeted in. With the walls in place it is beginning to feel more like a building than just a dance floor.Rather than use 2 x 4 blocking diagonally between the studs, I “let in” 1×4′s at the corners for braces. This method is quick and extremely stable. It also reduces the amount of thermal bridging in the walls if I ever want to insulate them.
It looks like we may be getting a bit of rainy weather over the next few days so the pace may slow down a bit here at the building site. Good time to catch up with all the furniture orders.
We’ve had our first late summer storm systems rumble through, dumping lots of much needed rain. There’s been flooding in low lying areas of Nova Scotia but up here in the Highlands the water drains off quickly. With all this rain, work down at the building site came to an abrupt standstill. I placed a large tarp over the floor to shed most of the torrential downpour.
The rain provided some time to catch up with several of the furniture orders needing completion and also gave me some time to prepare the windows that will go into the shop. The windows are salvaged wood framed sealed units I saved from a job I did earlier this summer. With a couple of minor alterations and a coat of fresh oil these windows are perfect for the shop.
First I cut the beveled edge off of each unit, then the grooves off the ends. This provides a nice square simple window which will be easy to install and frame in.
The next step was to plane and sand all the cut surfaces. Then the whole frame received a thorough scraping and sanding. A fresh penetrating coat of linseed oil/turpentine was applied and the windows are ready to install into their new home.
Typically with most windows I salvage I remove the sealed unit and replace the old wood frame with a new one, however the wood in these is still solid and sound. They have a pleasing patina and will weather well. Only a small portion of the frame will be exposed once they are installed. They will also be well protected from the weather by a deep roof overhang.
Is summer drawing to a close? The nights are cooler, the days shorter and the weather slowly shifting with unsettled air. Where did the summer go? It’s been so busy, July melting into August and now we are already in September.
Down at the building site support beams are leveled and in place. The floor joists and rims are assembled, squared up and waiting for the plank flooring. Several month ago I found a local supplier for tongue and groove flooring but when it was time to buy some there was no stock available. The mill had shut down temporarily for maintenance. I opted for some 2 x 10 planks from the same mill for the floor.
The driveway turned into a millwork shop for a day as I machined grooves into the edges of the boards. I also rounded over all the ends and edges of the planks to deal with any slight discrepancies at the joints once the floor is fastened down. A plywood spline will be inserted into the grooves to create the same effect as typical tongue and groove planks.
The boards go down nicely with only an occasional one requiring some coaxing from a pipe clamp to straighten it out. The 4″ dipped Ardox nails hold these planks firmly in place. It’s a solid floor with no deflection or bounce typical with plywood or composite floor panels. The look is so pleasing Tracey wants this same flooring for the house.
The layout lines are in place and leveled for the foundation of the shop. The grade here is about 16% or a 2/12 pitch. This building will be constructed on a series of concrete piers. The upper piers sits directly on the bedrock at the surface and are about 6″ above ground, the center ones are dug into the ground about a foot to the bedrock and are about 24″ in total height, the lower ones are excavated down about 16″ to undisturbed compact subsoil, they are about 48″ in total height and will be back-filled with at least 3 feet of subsoil after grading the site is completed.
A load of gravel and one of crushed stone arrived at the building site the other day and I’ve started digging into these to make concrete for the foundation piers and footings. Personally I believe that the foundation is the most important element in any structure, every other component within a building relies on the integrity of a solid foundation.
The lower 3 piers start with a 12″ thick reinforced slab that is approximately 27″ square. The concrete for these footings was allowed to cure for three days prior to placing the piers on top.
The forms for the piers were made with some recycled tongue and groove lumber and scraps of plywood. These forms are 36″ tall and each required about 7 cubic feet of concrete to fill, that’s just over 6 wheelbarrows full per pier. Once all the concrete piers have cured for at least 10 days the next phase of construction will begin. In the mean time there are many wheelbarrows full of back-fill soil to haul and pack into place to properly grade the site.