Thoughts “Turning to Stone”

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.





Topping Out

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.

Rainy Day Projects

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.

Where the Wild Things are!

The weather wasn’t very Spring-like, but it’s perfect for working in the woods and at the wood pile. With the odd snow flake drifting in the wind it’s a pleasure to walk through the woods without those pesky blackflies and mosquitoes constantly trying to have a quick snack, it’s inevitable though they’ll make an appearance very soon.  Most of my day was spent among the Wild Things up here on the mountain. On the 10 Acre wood a small clearing is slowly appearing as I create a space among the trees for our future home site.

The chainsaw is a messy noisy tool and I use it very sparingly. It’s only use here is to fell the trees, all the limbing and bucking (cutting into pieces) is done with the axe. Without the noise from the chainsaw I can hear eagles far above screeching at each other, the chirping of birds amongst the trees and the whoosh of an occasional crow as it fly’s by.

A pile of logs has slowly accumulated which I will mill into lumber for our house later this summer. In the meantime they must be peeled to prevent the infestation of various wood boring beetles which could greatly compromise them as a usable building material.

Peeling the logs also helps prepare them for the sawing process. They will have some time to pre-dry thereby eliminating internal stresses making for more stable lumber. Most of these will become timbers for the frame of the house.

Simple tools make quick work of removing the bark and it’s on to the next log.  As I maneuver and work each log a vision of it’s place within our future home slowly develops. As with everything I create our home will inherit it’s own unique story, an account of the materials, experiences and adventures that have gone into every aspect through its creation.

Natural Play Gym

Silas is enjoying his play gym more and more lately. He can now grab and touch the natural toys hanging down.

I love the sweet sounds he makes as he watches them swing and move.

Something so simple turns out to be the best toy ever. He’s been falling asleep here after a good play time.

If you are looking for a natural play gym too, click onto Papa’s shop. These have free shipping only until the end of March.