Day nine

a thing i really like about cutting trees for the construction of the timber frame for our house is its link to the past. this is the same method used by our forefathers. going into the wood or forest and observing, looking closely at each tree and assessing it for use within the building. what part could it provide is the first question? measuring its girth, and estimating the height that that girth runs, and then any subsequent pieces you might be able to obtain from it, once felled.

having a detailed cutting list is essential.

you need to be able to go into the woods and know what you are looking for, and then what you need to cut, the lengths and widths. for instance, you need to know how wide a tree has to be to give up an 8×8″ post, essentially 280mm, to get a pretty square post without excessive wane (a part where the tree naturally narrows inside of the square cut, with the cut generally running out into bark).

and you need to be a bit flexible with your list, knowing that timber is a natural product, and that it may not conform just so, to your wishes or needs, sometimes you may have to go with it. it may not run straight, it may run in and out, but provided it isn’t twisted too much you will be alright. just go with it. its part of the character of the tree, which will become part of the character of the wood and in turn of your home.

i like the challenge of working this way, it has a lot to do with knowing your craft. you make it work even if others might give up on it? deciding if you have enough tolerance to play with.

if you’ve slightly oversized on lengths it will give you a margin to work within to achieve the closest fit you can later. over cutting by much is as wasteful as undercutting. its a finely gauged thing. and that is it, its gauged, there are no fixed rules. even when you try and obey all the constraints of good building practice, and engineered design, sometimes you will have to use your common sense or experience and over-ride principals, because that’s what they are, principals, guides for general construction. the closer you work all aspects of timber the more you understand about it and the greater your ability to use that judgement.

now, i only have to find timber for some of the attic floor joists. i have jigged the design slightly, so i don’t need to span the entire depth of the house with the joists, as per the plan, which would’ve required joists at a depth of 270mm or a nominal 11″, (the reasons for this in the design are to prevent overloading the girding beams). i am going to insert something known as a summer beam (one smaller than the usual dimensions), at the midway point, across the entire width of the building, spanning from bent to bent, housed in the girding beams, and additionally interlocking them. this will take any flex out of the floor joists and allow me to downsize them to 200mm, which will make finding them in the forest much easier, since i only need to find trees at 280mm diameter instead of 355+ in order to get any number out per length. as of today, theoretically i only need another five 6.6m lengths.

its been an exhausting couple of weeks, trying to find 134 pieces of timber in a stand of pine trees somewhat closely packed together. joyful, scary, constantly intense, and somewhat pressured. the last couple of days especially so, as its involved cutting down the biggest trees, the half meter+ wide trees that run the best part of 100 ft. some of them within striking distance of overhead power lines.

the reasons why i didn’t clear cut are because i didn’t want to take all the trees out, i don’t need them all for construction. and i hope that at least some of them will survive the seco plague that’s hitting the forests here, hopefully to grow and have productive lives, and maybe one day get used for some other construction project. i didn’t plant the trees, and it doesn’t seem right to take them all out. not yet anyway. i’m trying to manage part of the forest, and this is my way of managing it. there are other reasons, but this isn’t he place to talk about them.

i’ve tried my hardest to accurately place the trees in slots between other trees to prevent damage. i can appreciate why some people would clear cut regardless, its easier, and a helluva lot safer. i’ve tried wherever possible to leave any tree standing that i hadn’t earmarked for construction, unless its presence presented a real threat to my personal safety in my efforts to get another tree down. out of the 60 or 70 trees i’ve felled i think i only had to cut out about 5 additional trees.

i haven’t removed more than a fraction of the total trees in the 2 stands in the top of the forest that we manage. if you look at it from a financial pov i was offered only €1800-2000 for all the trees in both stands, which would not have paid for more than 1/3 of the total pieces of timber on my cutting list. i still have to get everything hauled to the trackside, then mill everything/get some of it milled at the mill, but i am certain, for us, this was the right approach.

this was my original intention when we looked for a place to be self sufficient, that it would provide the materials to build a house. this is the message i want to send to anyone who reads this. there are other ways of building that aren’t reliant upon huge loans from a bank (forest/woodland here runs at about E1000 per acre) and sometimes it isn’t necessary to employ teams of people, you can learn to do it yourself.

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3 Responses to Day nine

  1. jon says:

    preach brother preach

  2. Mark & Suze says:

    Think you'll have to call your place the “Passion Pit” – it would be apt if not totally original…

  3. Right on. I'll definitely be following your progress.
    Cheers!

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