Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Busy, Busy, Busy

December 4, 2007

What with making toys, trying to get the kitchen finished and work, I have not put up a lot of new stuff on this site of late. More posts are coming, particularly related to boatbuilding, toy-making, and creative stuff for the Holidays. In the meantime, I noticed that my friend Peter got a really nice plug for his book about his tree house (which I illustrated). You can see it at:   Casasugar

Kitchen Part Two

November 12, 2007

As you can see from the previous post, this whole project has taken on a life of its own. As of last weekend, I was able to move most, but not all of the appliances back into the kitchen, and had water run to the sink, but had not connected the faucet yet because I needed to make the counter top first. Most of the painting has been done and the floor has been sanded and refinished. The wiring is complete, well, almost complete, we wired up the wrong outlet for the range, so I need to get the electrician back. Otherwise, I am spending lots of late evenings putting back trim, rebuilding the pantry, and am getting ready to make up new cabinets.
               Here we see the kitchen at about day fifteen:

Day fifteen

               And day twenty one:

Day twentyone

               At least now I have running water.
               One of the more challenging aspects of this project, or of any project that involves a room in your home, is the question of what to do with all the stuff that is normally in that room while you work on it. My solution has to do with the generosity of my neighbors who have a variety of military surplus tents. I borrowed one that was designed to house a hum-vee. I set it up behind my kitchen and moved the contents of the kitchen into it. It has worked really well, although I have to admit, I now appreciate no having to go outdoors to get to the refrigerator.

Kitchen remodel rebuild

November 6, 2007

For eighteen years, I have been putting off the renovation of the kitchen at the cottage where I live. This year, thanks to a combination of a boom in the rodent population and a spell of wonderfully warm weather, I decided that I could not delay the kitchen project for another year. I have been putting this project off because I knew that it would be fraught with construction dilemmas that are difficult, if not impossible to predict. I was right.
         The problem list that I knew about were a nine-inch sag in the roof, 2×4 walls that were about 20% insulated, 2×4 rafters with no insulation, iron pipes that were rusted and that were causing the shut off valves (where there were any) and the faucet to fail, and the floor needed to be refinished. Easy, right? Well, OK not easy, but manageable, or so I thought. I figured I would strip out the interior, sister-frame the walls and ceiling so I could put in adequate insulation, push the ridge pole back into place with screw jacks, and replace the collar ties, re-plumb and refinish the floor.
         It turned out that those 2×4 walls were actually 2×3 walls and that there was additional iron plumbing left in the walls from previous upgrades, and which all had to be removed, and did I mention that the whole room needed to be rewired? If you add to this classic New England farmhouse framing from the 1920’s (nothing is square or plumb) you can understand why what I thought was a two-week project is fast approaching week four.
         Anyway, I present here the first part of a visual time line on the kitchen:

Day One: the old kitchen

KItchen day one

Day four:

Day four

Day five: Jacking the ridge pole back up

Day five

Day seven: New framing, insulation and rough wiring

Day seven

Day ten

Day ten

Stay tuned…

Barn Update

November 1, 2007

If you read about the barn raising, that I helped with last July, then you might be interested in seeing what the barn looks like now that it is ready for winter.

The Barn

            While it is not complete, windows and doors nee to be installed, it is closed in for winter, the exterior siding has been sealed against the weather, the steel roofing is on, and is even cut in such a way that the later addition of the cupola will be more easily achieved.
            What a satisfying project, even though my part was mostly just to do with the timber frame itself, I am delighted with how this came out.
            A very different project to the kitchen I have been working on most recently…

Work or Play?

September 25, 2007

For the last few weeks, I have been dashing around doing all kinds of stuff, thus the lull in posts. A boat show, then a short cruise, followed by a delivery trip, and now I am preparing to take the boat out of the water.
           In amongst all this slap dashing around the coast I managed to fit in a weekend project that was a bit unusual; I made a model of Peter’s tree house.
           There is a big country fair in central Maine called the Common Ground Fair, Peter was going to be in his own booth selling copies of his award winning book Treehouse Chronicles, which I illustrated. I wanted to create something that would draw people into the booth and get them looking at the book, and I thought that a scale model of the tree house might grab the attention of at least the children at the fair.

Tree House Model          Tree house

Tree house model up close  Tree house up close
           The model was a lot of fun to make and took roughly two and a half days, then I ran into a little problem; how to move it.
           It took another day to build a crate for the model. In some ways, the crate was the more challenging of the two projects because it needed to be strong, light, I had to figure out a way to secure and protect the model within the crate. Further, I needed to scrounge quite a bit of used plywood to make it. 
           As I worked on these projects, I was struck by how much fun it was building the model and how much building the moving crate felt like a chore. I am not sure why this should be except that making the model was a lot like toy making, and making the moving crate was not. Or, perhaps, it is just about response. The model enchanted children and adults alike, but only my boss commented on the crate.

Barn Raising

August 17, 2007

I had a great experience recently in Vermont. Some good friends have been planning to build a small barn for some time. Since I have built a number of projects, and have experience as a draftsman, I have been involved with the project from the beginning. My friends were able to determine their needs and the function of the building and they settled on timber frame construction.  I was able to draw them what it would look like and how it would go together.

Barn Assembly

Small barn in perspective

           This is far from being the first timber frame project that I have been involved with,(see the boat shed on the boat page and my friend Peter’s timber frame tree house) but it just might have been the most fun. First of all because my friends really took the time to carefully consider what they wanted as a completed structure and second because they were willing to participate in the construction of the timber frame itself.
           The other element that made this a fun project was the high level of organization. When I arrived in Vermont with my timber framing tools, the concrete slab with appropriate plumbing and wiring run through it was in place, and the lumber was all on site. Even when it started to rain, tents were ready to set up so that we could keep working. In my experience, where most jobs get bogged down is when materials run out, or when there is no “plan B” as things go wrong. What was great for me, was that the two times that we had a problem (two 16 foot timbers unaccounted for, and a broken drill) my friends, a husband and wife team, had the resources to effect a solution by the end of the day.
           We got up each morning, outlined the plan for the day and just worked…it was great. At the end of each day we could stand back and point to what we had accomplished, which is a really rewarding feeling. This was particularly true after the third day of working together because the timbers were coming together into timber bents and the barn was beginning to take shape.

End of Day 3

           Another ingredient that made this project fun is its size. Like the tree house, this barn is small, somewhere between garden shed and a typical barn. Four of us could stand up the timber bents by ourselves. Not having to organize a huge crew to put together the pieces of the building made it a pleasure to assemble.

Putting the Barn Together

           So rather than write any more, the picture on the Left was taken Monday morning, and the one on the right Friday afternoon.

Day one  Day Five

New Maine Coast Resource

August 4, 2007

In other posts on this site, I have sung the praises of my favorite magazine, Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors. If you are interested in keeping up with what is going on in coastal Maine, the magazine has just started an online version. Great photographs of beautiful boats, a “launchings” feature, architecture, art, and reviews as well as a great calendar feature, are all part of this site. If you are like me, and could look at pictures of beautiful boats all day, check out the featured photographer Jamie Bloomquist, you won’t be disappointed.
Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors -on line

More Landscape at the Wheelhouse

April 30, 2007

I just wanted to add two further notes to the last post about the landscape design at the wheelhouse.

         The first one is a further note on the construction of the woodshed. There are many ways to build a log cabin, but I chose a kind of joinery that I had seen used in the Alps and that is not very common on this side of the Atlantic, so I thought it might merit comment.

         The logs are trued; that is the top and bottom surfaces are made flat and parallel to one another. Logs are also matched, in other words two logs of the lame length are matched to one another based on having the same thickness, or distance between the trued surfaces. The next step was to shape each end of the log so that it has six sides. The drawing below came from the journal that I kept while building the wheelhouse.

Log cnstruction

             The reason for the six-sided ends is that the notches that hold the structure together can now be made as a simple three sided notch, rather than having to be scribed, and cut to the exact natural profile of each individual log.

             The other footnote is that while completing the wheelhouse I discovered a company that made wood fired, cedar hot tub. The tub is a kit I bought from the Snorkel Stove Company. I located down hill from the well, which makes it easy to fill with a piece of garden hose set up as a siphon. It is also set into a landscaped area with stone retaining walls and gravel drainage. This makes it easier to get into the tub without tracking in dirt or mud.

Location of Hot Tub

           The tub was great for soaking sore muscles after a hard day of moving stone, carpentry or gardening, but I don’t use it during black fly season, or in the later half of winter when it is too much work to dig it out after each snow storm.

The Landscape at the Wheelhouse

April 25, 2007

I was at the wheelhouse this morning trying to tackle the post-winter cleanup and thought I would put some information together about the landscape around the wheelhouse.

             Quite a lot of thought went into the landscape design outside the Wheelhouse. The building is in the forest, away from roads and modern conveniences like running water. I used stone left over from the building to put up small retaining walls and to create terraces for plants. The plan was then to gather all kinds of plants, but herbs in particular that have a tradition of medicinal use. The reason for this was that I wanted there to be a theme to the garden, and I wanted to have a cross section of plants that require little attention. Basically, those plants that did well in a forest climate in New England have thrived and the rest have taken themselves out of the mix. You can see from the garden plan below the original landscape layout at the wheelhouse.

Garden Plan

             Two other elements of the landscaping that are important to the maintenance of the gardens are the well and the tool shed. The soil at the site, such as it is, varies in depth from two feet to about six feet deep and covers a granite ledge. I had excavated the soil where the building was to be built so that it sits directly on ledge. To the south of the building, the ledge forms a depression under the soil. In that spot, I dug down about through six feet of soil to the ledge and put a dry well so that water from the surrounding area would drain and collect in the well. The well is the physical center of the gardens and its location is intended to make the watering of plants as easy as possible with a bucket. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, you should know that my approach to gardening is one of minimal effort, and I water plants rarely, but the idea behind the well is sound, and when I do actually get around to watering, it is easy.


              The design of the tool shed was dictated by events in the forest. Blight came through and killed a small stand of fir trees. One year they appeared to be fine, and by next summer, they were dead. The firs needed to be cut down or become a fire hazard, so I decided to use the tree trunks to make the tool shed. The shed is a cross between a log cabin and an “A” frame. It has just enough room for garden tools, some firewood, an axe and splitting maul and not much else. Even though the construction of the tool shed is different from the wheelhouse the addition of Nordic “house dragons” on the eves of the roof help, tie it stylistically to the wheelhouse.

Tool Shed

            Over the years, the gardens have taken on a life and character of their own. No matter how I try to impose order, plants have a mind of their own, after the third time I tried to put the soapwort, or the comfrey back where I thought it should be, I gave up and let them sort out for themselves who grows where. It now has a somewhat wild look but many of the plants are still doing quite well without interference from me.

              The tool shed, as all tool sheds do, has collected an assortment of items that have nothing whatsoever to do with either the gardens or the wheelhouse. Homemade bows and arrows have ended up there, leftover playthings of local children, now all grown up. Half-filled bags of some miracle garden product that proved to be, less than miraculous, clutter the corners of the shed. Squirrels store odd and ends from their own lives there as well through the winters. In short, the tool shed seems to have a destiny, like the garden, over which I have no control.

Celtic Wheelhouse Construction Drawings

April 20, 2007

Several readers have asked for more information of the construction of the Celtic Wheelhouse. The construction drawing that I have from this project are too big to scan in one go, but I have scanned some of them in sections and am including them in this post. Even though some of the drawings have the scale indicated on them, I would not try to measure off the drawings but would recommend that you only use them to get a sense of proportion and scale. The basic dimensions are; outside diameter of the building is thirty feet across, interior dimension is twenty-eight feet across. Height of the stonewall from floor to the top plate where the roof connects is six feet. Foundation is two feet thick and goes down to bedrock, a depth that varies from two feet to four feet below the floor.

Section drawing of the Wheelhouse

Facade Wheelhouse

             Some of the drawings show stairs and a loft, which I opted not to build. The roof consists of a ceiling made of tapered boards, a layer of diagonal compression bands (see photo below) and an outer roof. The three layers, inner ceiling, compression bands, and outer roof, combine to make a tensile roof. The roof was then shingled in cedar.

Compression bands on inner roof

Cedar shingles

Construction details for roof

                 I will be posting some more related construction material as I get a chance, and late in the summer I will be re-shingling the roof because, gasp, it has been just about twenty years since I built this. When that happens there will be further posts, I am sure.

Floor Plan of Wheelhouse